Saturday, 19 October 2013

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8.0)

The latest tablet in Samsung’s Galaxy Tab series comes in an unfamiliar size.
Looking for an Android tablet can be quite a daunting task, as the market for tablets running on Google’s operating system is so crowded that you will be spoilt for choice.
Samsung is the biggest hardware manufacturer for Android smartphones, and it has a healthy tablet lineup. The Galaxy Tab series, Samsung’s main product line in the Android tablet market, has reached third ­generation. This time Samsung has added in an 8in ­version of the Galaxy Tab 3 to its current mix of 7in and 10.1in devices.
We take a look at the Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 and see if the additional 1in sets it apart from the rest of the 7in tablets in the market.
Sizing it up
Samsung has made an excellent choice in including an 8in version, as 7in tablets are a little too small for comfort, while those at 10.1in are cumbersome to carry around. The Tab 3’s 8in size is the best of both worlds: Big enough yet still portable.
The Tab 3 sports a very thin bezel, unlike the first 8in tablet released by Samsung, the Galaxy Note 8.0. This makes the overall device a little easier to hold with one hand, although there is a slight setback — the narrow edges surrounding the screen makes it harder to hold the device without accidentally touching the screen.
As with other Samsung devices, the Tab 3 has a plastic build. The design is also unmistakably Samsung, with the same structure as what you would expect from any of its other devices.
A notable change from previous Galaxy tablets is that the Tab 3 comes with a physical home button accompanied by the Menu and Back capacitive buttons, just like the Galaxy smartphones. Whether the physical home button is a good thing or not is pretty subjective — we were a little annoyed because we kept accidentally pressing the Back capacitive button.
Another notable change is that the Tab 3 uses the more commonly found micro USB port. This is great news as almost every other smartphone uses the micro USB port so your wallet can heave a sigh of relief as all your cables and chargers should be compatible with this device.
The Tab 3 uses a TFT screen — while not as vibrant as the Super Amoled screens used in the high-end Galaxy smartphones, the screen has its advantages as the colours are not overly saturated.
The 5-megapixel camera is one of the best we’ve tested on a tablet but it doesn’t have an LED flash.
The Tab 3 ships with Android 4.2.2 Jellybean. This puts it on par with Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4.
Specs-wise, the Tab 3 is not much of a powerhouse with only dual cores. The user experience is fluid most of the time but do expect the occasional lag. Worry not as the lag is not to the extent where it will frustrate the user.
Multi windows, now a staple feature in Galaxy devices, is also present in the Tab 3. The feature allows two apps to be opened simultaneously on the screen. The list of compatible apps is also slowly growing and it is now pretty respectable, compared to when it was first introduced.
One thing that we would like to highlight is the Group Play feature which has been improved. This new version allows one Android to become the main device that blasts out its portable WiFi hotspot for other devices to connect to.
Once connected, the devices can either share music, images, documents, or even play multiplayer games. It is extra impressive when sharing music, as the different devices can be assigned to be either the left or right speakers for an entertaining surround sound experience.
This tablet works as a full-fledged phone and even has a earpiece for you to put up to your ear to talk like on a normal phone.
The Tab 3 that we reviewed is the LTE-enabled version, making it one of the few Samsung devices released here thus far to offer LTE connectivity. There is also a cheaper WiFi-only version available.
Final note
Samsung has been flooding the market with way more products compared to their competitors and ultimately it gives consumers a broad range of options to choose from.
We feel that at 8in, this version of the Tab 3 is an interesting option for those who find the size of 7in tablets a little too cramped, while not willing to sacrifice mobility with a 10.1in device.
In addition to that, the size is also more optimised for reading as it is shaped very similarly to the size of a regular notebook.
In terms of usability, the device is still fluid despite only having dual cores. This can be attributed to the stability that comes with Android Jellybean 4.2.2.
All in all, it is a device meant for those who felt that 7in devices were too small while not wanting to be burdened by a huge 10.1in tablet.
Pros: 8in is a good size for a tablet; light; not too wide, making it easy to hold with one hand; runs on Android 4.2.2 Jellybean.
Cons: Bezels too thin to hold the device comfortably without accidentally touching the screen; no NFC.

GALAXY TAB 3 (8.0)
Android tablet
NETWORK: GSM 850/900/1800/ 1900, HSDPA 850/900/1900/ 2100, LTE 800/850/900/1800/2100/2600
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
PROCESSOR: 1.5GHz Exynos 4212 dual-core
DISPLAY: 8.0in TFT display (1,280 x 800-pixels)
CAMERA: 5-megapixels with autofocus; 1.3-megapixels (front facing)
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 4.0, Wireless 802.11 abgn, dual-band, DLNA, WiFi Direct, WiFi hotspot, microUSB 2.0
MEMORY: 16GB internal memory, 1.5GB RAM
EXPANSION SLOT: MicroSD (up to 64GB)
FEATURES: GPS, stereo speakers, multiscreen, Group Play
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 209.8 x 123.8 x 7.4mm
WEIGHT: 314g
PRICE: RM1,499
RATING: 3.5 stars
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia Electronics (SME) Sdn Bhd, 1-800-88-9999
- Donovan Quek, The Star

SONY Xperia Z Ultra

Xperia Z Ultra: Bigger is better

GARGANTUAN: The Xperia Z Ultra is huge, sporting an enormous 6.4in screen.
GARGANTUAN: The Xperia Z Ultra is huge, sporting an enormous 6.4in screen.
Sony’s 6.4in phablet gives users an Ultra multimedia experience.
DO YOU find your smartphone screen too small? Don’t like the hassle of carrying around a tablet? 
Sounds like what you need is a phablet: a hybrid of phone and tablet. It’s larger than a phone, yet smaller than a tablet. 
In terms of phablets, it doesn’t get much bigger than Sony’s first foray into this growing market segment: the Sony Xperia Z Ultra. 
Beautiful Giant 
The Z Ultra is huge, sporting an enormous 6.4in screen. The good thing about the gargantuan screen is that it is not too wide, just exceptionally long. That makes it still very manageable when using with just one hand. 
Sony devices have always been known to look good, and the Z Ultra is no exception — it has a beautiful unibody design that is not only solid, but very classy looking as well. 
SUPER SLIM: The Z Ultra is marketed as the world’s thinnest full high definition (HD) smartphone.
SUPER SLIM: The Z Ultra is marketed as the world’s thinnest full high definition (HD) smartphone.

Being made of glass, the device feels premium but it is also a fingerprint magnet. Users should also be careful not to drop the device as it will be costly to repair. 
The Z Ultra is marketed to be the world’s thinnest full high definition (HD) smartphone available in the market, and it does indeed feel extremely thin. 
The size of the screen is not the only selling point — the Triluminos full HD display used by the Z Ultra is very impressive, making it one of the better looking screens we’ve seen. It is excellent for viewing pictures and videos, which isn’t surprising as it is backed by Sony’s X-reality engine. 
Talking point 
As a phone, users are definitely going to feel awkward having a device of such proportion being placed against their face during phone calls. Sony seems to acknowledge this fact as they introduced a new Bluetooth headset together with the Z Ultra when the phablet was first announced. Sony had even packed in an SBH50 Stereo Bluetooth headset together with our review unit.  
BUNDLED: The Z Ultra comes with an 8-megapixel camera.
AWESOME: The Triluminos full HD display used by the Z Ultra is very impressive, making it one of the better looking screens we’ve seen.
In terms of pocketability, the Z Ultra could fit in this reviewer’s slacks and pants, but it sure wasn’t comfortable as the device is too long. The bulge it made was also too obvious for comfort. 
As with the other, newer Xperia devices released in recent times, the Z Ultra is dust-proof and water-resistant. It is IP 55/58 compliant, meaning that provided all ports and covers are firmly closed, the device is protected against low pressure jets of water from all directions in compliance with IP 55; and/or can be kept under 1.5m of freshwater for up to half an hour in compliance with IP 58. 
For the device to attain the waterproof status, flaps are required to cover the ports, i.e. the micro USB port. However, the flaps are subject to wear and tear and thus might not last very long — users should be wary of this before subjecting the device to water. 
Despite the certification, it is safer to take the feature as a form of protection for your device against accidental spills rather than for purposely dunking the device into water. 
DON'T DUNK IT: The Z Ultra may be dust-proof and water-resistant, but it's safer to take the feature as a form of protection against accidental spills rather than an excuse to go crazy with the dunking.
DON'T DUNK IT: The Z Ultra may be water-resistant, but it's safer to take the feature as a form of protection against accidental spills rather than an excuse to go crazy with the dunking.
Another adverse side effect from having a waterproof device is that the volume of the loudspeaker is in fact not very loud. The speakers are coated to prevent water from seeping in. A software update has helped to mitigate the problem, but don’t expect brilliant sound quality from this device’s speakers. 
The Z Ultra comes with an 8-megapixel camera. We were disappointed with the picture quality, as it was very grainy especially under low light conditions. Another drawback is that the device is not equipped with an LED flash, so photo taking in total darkness is out of the question. That would also mean that you can’t double the device as a torch light. 
Underneath your clothes 
This phablet has Android 4.2.2. Jelly Bean on board. As with other devices running on Jelly Bean, the user experience is buttery smooth. This is also because the device is equipped with the best of specs, coming with 2.2 GHz Qualcomm MSM8974 quad-cores under the hood. 
Games with better graphics such as Temple Run looked amazing on the Z Ultra’s huge screen. 
The Z Ultra has 16GB of memory built in, and this can be expanded with a microSD card of up to 64GB. 
WRITE PATH: One of the main features that Sony had highlighted about the Z Ultra is the ability to use any pen or pencil as a stylus for the device.
WRITE PATH: One of the main features that Sony had highlighted about the Z Ultra is the ability to use any pen or pencil as a stylus for the device.
One of the main features that Sony had highlighted about the Z Ultra is the ability to use any pen or pencil as a stylus for the device. We find this to be more of a gimmick as it is very hard to get it working properly in practice. 
To top it off, there is no palm rejection, thus writing won’t work if your palm touches the screen. It is very tough to hold the device comfortably with one hand while trying to write with the other without either hand touching the screen for an extended period of time. 
The Z Ultra is a device that really pushes the limits of screen sizes, even for a phablet. At 6.4in, it is the biggest device we’ve seen that isn’t labelled as a tablet. 
If you can look beyond its enormous size, it is a very capable and powerful device from Sony. 
With such a large and beautiful full HD screen, it is an excellent media device but only if you have a pair of earphones as the speakers are below par. 
It is also handy that the device is waterproof, so you don’t have to worry too much when you use it around wet areas. 
This is one of the few devices in the market that can give the other ‘Note’able phablet a run for its money. 
Pros: Large, beautiful screen; waterproof; smooth UI. 
Cons: Too huge to place in the pocket comfortably; speakers not loud enough; no LED flash; handwriting more of a gimmick. 
Xperia Z Ultra (C6833)
Platform: Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
Processor: 2.2GHz Qualcomm MSM8974 Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor
Network: GSM 850/900/1800/1900, HSDPA 850/900/1700/2100, LTE 800/850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100/2600
Camera: 8-megapixel, 2-megapixel (front)
Display: 6.4in (1,920 x 1,080-pixels) Triluminous touchscreen
Memory: 16GB Internal memory, microSD slot (up to 64GB), 2GB RAM
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, NFC
Features: 1080p full HD video recording and playback; dust-proof and water-resistant (IP55/IP58); shatter proof and scratch-resistant glass; X-Reality engine
Battery: 3,050mAh lithium-on
Size: 179.4 x 92.2 x 6.5mm
Weight: 212g
Price: RM2,299 (non LTE version)
Rating: 4
Review unit courtesy of Sony Mobile Malaysia, 1-800-88-7666

- Donovan Quek, The Star

Blackberry Q5

Blackberry Q5. FOR BYTZ USE ONLY.
Get the benefits of a full Qwerty keyboard plus a smoother software experience via the BlackBerry 10 OS.
Blackberry’s Q5 is built on the premise that it has been designed to “keep you moving,” so we were keen to see what new mobile experience it would have to offer fans.
At a first glance, the qualities of the Q5 that stood out most to us were its size, the presence of a touchscreen and the ever familiar Qwerty keyboard.
But does the phone really have what it takes to capture the hearts of today’s smartphone users? Here’s a closer look at how the Q5 fares.
Smooth and slick
In general, we found the phone’s appearance to be quite visually appealing, mainly due to its curved edges and simple yet elegant design.
The device could be held comfortably in one hand and was reasonably lightweight. Based on its size, we also felt that it stood a good chance of being able to fit snugly into most pockets; something which cannot really be said of most other smartphones that are available in the market these days.
Besides that, the Q5, which is available in black, red and white, supports 4G LTE network connectivity and runs on the BlackBerry 10.1 operating system.
From our experience, the software ran very smoothly, and the switching between various screens and apps on the device proved to be quite seamless. We also did not face any noticeable lag when using data services on the phone.
MicroSD and SIM slot. FOR BYTZ USE ONLY.
Ports ahoy: The MicroSD and SIM slot. Both slots are protected by a small flap, which needs to be lifted in order to insert and remove both cards.
The device’s SIM and microSD slots are located along the left side of the phone, just below its micro USB charging port. Both ports are protected by a small flap, which needs to be lifted in order to insert and remove both cards. We felt this was rather nifty, since it was fairly easy to gain access to both cards whenever desired. However, the flap may also become a problem once wear and tear set in as it is only being held in place by two small hinges.
Last but not least, the Q5 retained BlackBerry’s classic full Qwerty keyboard feature. However, this inevitably comes with a trade-off in terms of the size of its display.
Of size and software
While screen size wasn’t really an issue when we were viewing content from apps such as Facebook or Adobe Reader, it soon became an obvious inconvenience once we started doing things like browsing websites and watching videos on YouTube.
Most websites that we visited showed up looking really tiny on the screen, and this meant that we had to do a whole lot of zooming and scrolling just so that we could get a good look at its contents.
Furthermore, the visuals did not encompass the entire surface area of the screen even though we had opted for full screen mode on YouTube. It was also disappointing to discover that it isn’t possible to rotate the screen of the Q5 in order to watch videos in landscape view.
With regards to the audio and image quality, we felt that it wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t great either. Volume levels had to be turned up to at least 75% or more in order for it to be reasonably audible, with or without the earphones plugged in. Meanwhile, the photos and video recordings which we took with the phone turned out to be grainy, despite being shot at close range.
One very significant issue that we’d like to highlight here is that learning how to navigate the BlackBerry 10.1 operating system proved to be quite a challenge.
At times, it was hard to figure out how to access certain settings or menu items. We only managed to successfully perform certain tasks on the phone after repeated attempts at carrying out the required swipe action. For example, swiping upwards in order to minimise an app to the Active Frames view, which basically shows you a snapshot of all the apps that are actively running on the Q5 at a given time.
The limited range of apps that was available on BlackBerry World also further dampened our enthusiasm in using the phone.
However, it is worth pointing out that the manufacturer has loaded some simple tutorials into the phone which teaches a user how to perform several essential tasks on the Q5. These tutorials can be accessed via the Tutorials icon on the Home Screen. It would be really helpful for you to have a look at it, especially if you are exploring the BlackBerry platform for the first time.
On the serious side
We felt that the RM1,299 price tag attached to the Q5 was a little too much to ask for when balanced out against the range of features that the phone offered us in return.
In particular, the need to compromise on the screen size in order to accommodate a full Qwerty keyboard seemed to us like a sacrifice not worth the cost, given how much multimedia content most of us tend to consume on our phones on a regular basis.
So, in essence, the fact remains as it has been for BlackBerry phones of yore: The Q5 would be most beneficial to users who need a phone that’s strictly for business (by this we mean content consumption that is more text heavy).
The Q5 will likely retain the favour of its existing BlackBerry followers since it maintains a familiar look and feel to its predecessors. However, others may not be as enthusiastic about the phone for the very same reasons.
In particular, if you are seeking a device that is more of a lifestyle companion, you may find that the Q5’s screen rather limiting. Unless, of course, you’re someone who just can’t live without a physical keyboard on your smartphone.
Pros: Full Qwerty keyboard; easily accessible SIM and microSD ports; pocket friendly size; easy to hold.
Cons: Screen size too small; mediocre multimedia experience; expensive given the features it offers.
- The Star