Reviews

Orange San Diego Review

An Intel processor in a smartphone? It’s more likely than you think. The company has been trying to cram its processors into mobile devices for some time now, with the first sightings at CES 2010, but its taken all this time for smartphones featuring Atom processors to make it to market. The first was the Lava Xolo X900, released in India back in May, then the Lenovo K800, with the Orange San Diego bringing up the rear. That’s what we’ll be taking a look at in this review; how does it stack up to ARM-based offerings? Keep reading to find out.

Samsung Galaxy S III Review

It’s hard to think of another product - other than the iPhone - that’s had so much hype built around it. Rumors swirled the Galaxy S III for months, with leaks, renders, and reports coming from all corners of the globe as to what the sequel to the Galaxy S II might hold. The South Korean manufacturer did fall foul in its attempts to try and capitalize on the situation with its misguided “iSheep” campaign leading up to the May reveal, but the excitement was still palpable as we were ushered into the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre. We came away from that event with mixed feelings regarding the marketing and message of the phone, not to mention the device itself, but what about now? We’ve had a chance to spend some quality time with Samsung’s flagship handset for 2012, and can finally divulge our opinion.

Enhanced Email Review

For the majority of Android users who need email access beyond their Gmail account, Android's built-in mail client performs adequately. It handles POP, IMAP and Exchange accounts without fuss, or any bells and whistles. But if you're someone who relies on email for your profession (and these days, who doesn't?) you've probably found yourself looking for a few more features, like a search function for Exchange accounts. If that's you, check out Enhanced Email from developer Quantum Apps.

Next Issue magazine app review

The idea of reading periodicals on a tablet-like device is in fact older than the current crop of tablets. But the reality has thus far left something to be desired, mostly because translating an essentially analog experience to the digital world is a major UI feat. Dealing with content that seamlessly integrates text and photos is a lot more difficult than simple words. The latest company to have a go is Next Issue Media, and they've got some of the biggest magazine publishers in the US behind them: Hearst, Meredith, News Corp, Time Inc and Condé Nast. The format and pricing of the Next Issue service present a compelling front, so we decided it deserved a full review.

Archos 101 G9 Turbo review

Archos has always had a focus on video-optimized and flexible hardware, since long before their "tablets" started shipping with Android. With the current generation of mobile hardware, they can add even more media prowess to their utilitarian designs - in at least one case, even without a major overhaul. The 101 G9 Turbo edition gets its elongated title from the boosted 1.5Ghz dual-core processor. Some relatively quick coding from Archos' software department has also given later models Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box, with Google certification - in other words, it's exactly what you want when you hear the words "Android tablet", at least from a software standpoint. Is it enough to overcome more well-publicized competitors? Hardware Archos is kind of like the Jeep of portable media player manufacturers. You'd have a hard time calling any of their current products "pretty", though "tough" isn't exactly the right word either - the 101 G9 is made from rather ordinary glass and plastic. A better word would be "utilitarian", a philosophy that extends throughout the hardware. On the left side of the tablet you'll find a plethora of ports: mini-HDMI, MicroUSB, MicroSD (unlabelled, and right below the MicroUSB port), a standard headphone port, and a plastic dummy peice that slides out to reveal a full-sized USB port. In Europe this plastic piece can be replaced with a separate 3G modem, but no carrier on this side of the pond officially supports it. Even so, you can plug in a flash drive or external hard drive to augment the tablet's 8GB of storage. Controls are simple and unfortunately less than ergonomic. The power button hides between the ports on the left side while the tiny volume buttons sit along on the right. Neither are ideally placed - when holding the tablet in either hand I tended to accidentally tap them with my palm. The front of the tablet is bare aside from a lot of grey bezel and a 720p front-facing camera, the only one on the device. On the back of the tablet is a large and very loud speaker, the plastic USB port cover and... a kickstand. I love kickstands on mobile devices. And while this isn't the first I've seen, I'm always happy to use them. The small plastic stand folds out at about a 35 degree angle, and stays put when fully extended or retracted. That said, it's only truly useful when watching video or using the 101 G9 Turbo in "desktop mode" with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. The reason for this is its placement, almost on left edge of the device. When extended, the tablet will rock back any time you touch something on the opposite side of the screen - like, for example, the essential Search and Voice buttons on the launcher, or the primary button in the Google Play Store. A center placement might have solved this issue. Software This is Android as it's meant to be experienced: pure Ice Cream Sandwich, with no overlays, bloat, bells or whistles. Even with the advancements in the likes of TouchWiz and Sense, there's nothing that beats unadorned Android for speed, stability and flexibility, at least in the opinion of this reviewer. Yes, there are extra apps included, but none of them are unwelcome (which is more than I can say for ridiculous carrier fare like AT&T Navigation). What games are here are fun, and even if you don't want them, you can remove them completely. But hold your horses: in among the likes of Evernote and Nook are Archos' custom Music and Video apps, two programs that you'll want to keep around. Not only are they surprisingly well-made, they're considerably faster than Google's alternatives, though they don't integrate with the Google Play Store. Music comes pre-packaged with about two dozen free and popular songs, while the Video app has a collection of movie trailers. If you've got a bunch of hi-definition, DRM-free video files sitting around (I won't ask where you got them) Archos' video app can play 1080p h264 vids without a hitch, though of course you'll have to use and HDMI cable to make the most of it. Media and Performance Considering Archos' history and the additions of the Turbo model, this section will be of the most interest to those considering the upgrade over the standard 101 G9, which also gets an Ice Cream Sandwich software update. And considering that the tablet is running the latest and certainly greatest version of Android, the 1.5Ghz TI OMAP 4460 and 1GB of RAM are much appreciated (this is the the same combo as the Galaxy Nexus, but clocked a little higher). It's not a speed demon by any means: the Quadrant score is just below 2400, a little lower than I'd expect. But based on my experiences in the pack-in games and with Grand Theft Auto, it should be fine for all but the most demanding of gamers. Through the standard Android interface and especially when playing video, the 101 G9 shines. Full Google certification means that you've got access to the likes of Gmail, YouTube and the Google Play Store, along with the nearly limitless media options this provides. The one thing I found myself wishing for was access to Video On Demand, which of course isn't available as an app - but thanks to the Flash Player I was able to watch a few episodes via the Android browser. The combination of a loud speaker and kickstand would make the 101 a perfect video tablet - if it weren't for the somewhat lacking screen. Even at full brightness it's duller than most and there's a good bit of light leakage, which isn't helped by the glossy nature (something that's admittedly shared with all modern touchscreens). That said, the utility of the kickstand, the 10.1-inch 1280x800 screen and the excellent video decoding of the included Video app go a long way towards making up for this. The full-sized USB port is great if you've got a large collection of videos that you want to quickly access via the tablet. For the bigger USB drives you'll need an adapter - there's only a few millimeters between the port and the tablet housing to accommodate an external gadget. And for a tablet with so many USB options (including trickle charging) it's disappointing to see the MTP standard used instead of the more reliable USB mass storage. Battery and Value The 101 G9 lasted didn't last quite as long as I'd hoped a device this large would: got between 7 and 8 hours of web browsing and music on a charge, which of course went down when I added gaming and video. That's more than enough to get through the average plane flight, no matter what you're doing, but I've come to expect more longevity from a WiFi only tablet. The 8GB version comes in at $329.99, which I feel is a little pricey. But for the 250GB version (which houses a traditional hard drive instead of flash storage) at $389.99, it wins the price wars by virtue of being the only contestant in that capacity class. If you need monster storage space without adding any external hardware (and don't mind slightly diminished performance in some areas) it's a good deal. Keep in mind that both versions are frequently on sale at various retailers. The smaller Archos 80 G9 is considerably less expensive, though the screen goes down to 1024x768. Wrap-up  Archos tablets are strange beasts, cousins to the ASUS Transformer tablets in their focus on capability over style. They're also cheaper, though not by much in the case of the 101 G9 Turbo. The component upgrades are enough to make it worth the extra money versus their older counterparts, but the build quality, screen brightness and battery life may make it worth the extra dough to step up to a more premium manufacturer. There are two exceptions: one, those who love watching video, and lots of it, from a lot of different places. Archos' integrated video player is second to none, and its options for storage expansion can't be beat. The second exception is someone who absolutely must have vanilla Android, and the latest version at that - and doesn't want to modify their tablet to get it. Though the 101 G9 has only been out for a few weeks, it received its first maintenance update from Archos while I was using it. Long story short: there are prettier, thinner, and cheaper machines out there, but none of them offer the combination of hardware features and blessedly clean software that the Archos 101 G89 Turbo does. If you want pretty, get a Galaxy Tab (or, you know, an iPad). If you want a machine that specializes in video and doesn't get in the way of Android, give some serious consideration to Archos. [youtube AG3zyCqnGhA] [timeline] [gallery]

HTC Vivid Review

The HTC Vivid has the distinction of being one of the first phones to take advantage of AT&T's fledgeling LTE network, a feature it shares with its launch partner the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket. But the Vivid isn't relying on a single bullet point to make its purchase case - the dual-core Gingerbread phone has some high-end specs and a huge 4.5-inch qHD screen. Does the high-end featureset and a fancy new network connection make the Vivid a worthy buy?

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Review in a Nutshell

True to form, our good pal Chris Davies has the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer up and running as fast as a bunny, reviewing the heck out of it for you and me so that we might know if it's really worth the $400 we'll be paying for it! This device also has the code TF101 attached to it for further IDing and is, in short, a 10.1-inch Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet with a rather fashionable keyboard dock attachment that essentially allows you to work with the device as a tablet or a laptop. Will it power past the competition?

Guerilla Bob [Review] [Motorola XOOM + Android Handsets]

Lets begin by saying that Guerilla Bob works on lots of different Android devices. It looks fabulous on the XOOM tablet we've got sitting here, it looks lovely on the HTC ThunderBolt, and rolls out hard on the ATRIX 4G. The images and video you see below are on the Motorola XOOM tablet of course, as this is the big screen all games like this aught to be tested on, but let me assure you, it works just as well (and in some cases better) on the comparatively small screen. It's a powerhouse of a fun and simple shooter at just three bucks - skip the review, it rocks like a stick of dynamite attached to an arrow sticking to a bad guy!

HTC Inspire 4G Review

One of the most gigantic phones we've ever had the pleasure of trying to hold with one hand, this is the HTC Inspire 4G. This phone is available through AT&T and will soon be running on its full HSPA+ network, currently rolling hard on Android 2.2 Froyo on a 4.84 x 2.68 x 0.46 inch piece of candybar hardware. This is a phone with such a gigantic screen and speedy insides that the rest of the situation is minimalistic to the max - barely a physical button to be seen!
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