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Posts tagged ‘Reviews’

3
Sep

Ball Climb


Ball Climb is a great game for someone who simply doesn’t have time to play strenuous racing or zombie-killing games. You can play whenever, wherever thanks to the fact that it doesn’t require internet. Ready? Bounce!

Setup

As you may have guessed, Ball Climb is a simple game that doesn’t require many resources. As such, there is very little settings and setup that you have to through. You’re prompted to connected to a Google account for Play Games, and then you’re through. The only tutorial you get is “Tap!”, which is quite frankly all you need.

Gameplay

It’s probably not the only one of its kind, but it does seem to offer original gameplay. You’re basically a ball that bounces between two walls. Each time you tap, it moves higher up. The trick is to avoid the spikes on the wall as you move up. While it is kind of addictive, challenges and achievements are absent, leaving you with repetitive gameplay. There are however milestones in Google Play Games, but it’s not quite the same as if they were built in the app. To e fair, there are diamonds that you collect in order to get new balls, so there is at least some motivation to play.

Everything was smooth and responsive. Adverts do make minor appearances, but they’re not intrusive or annoying. Overall I quite liked the idea of it and playing the game.

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Is it for me ?

If you’re a fan of Indie type games, or simply looking for something simple, Ball Climb is likely the thing you’ve been looking for.

What we liked:

  • Fun gameplay
  • The sounds
  • Clean UI and graphics

And not so much…

  • Lack of levels
  • Lack of challenges

Ball Climb offers entertaining gameplay with being simple at the same time. While the challenges and levels/stages may only be something to look forward to, it still offers fine, smooth gameplay and certainly provides some entertainment. It’s one of the better games out there.

 

The post Ball Climb appeared first on AndroidGuys.

2
Sep

Knee Kick Girl: an RPG with loose controls, a paywall, and a good soundtrack (App Review)


Before the start of this review, I must say that I played the game for about five hours and was not close to finishing it because of its paywall.

Today, we’ll be taking a look at the action RPG Knee Kick Girl created by developer Chad Miller. Miller’s indie rock band, soundsfromyourhead, composed the game’s soundtrack.

The story centers around a girl who is trapped in Purgatory and makes a deal with Lucifer in order to escape. To do so, she has to conquer enemies with an array of dungeons in order to fulfill the contract.

Screenshot of Knee Kick Girl's prologue

Setup

The game’s setup is a standard affair. Download and install it from Google Play. Once you open it, you’ll be right in the game.

Functions and Features

Think of Knee Kick Girl as a horde mode game. In every two out of three dungeons, you need to eliminate every foe. Then, on every third dungeon, you’ll fight an end-of-chapter boss. Once you’re successful in killing it, even if you have not finished off everything else, you’ll still receive all of the drops.

There are items (like healing hearts, temporary ally characters, etc.) and power-ups (temporary attack buffs and permanent general buffs) to collect along the way.

Knee Kick Girl's chapter selection menu

 

Gameplay within Knee Kick Girl

The leveling up system uses the currencies of gold coins (the most common) and blue stars (a distant, second-most common) in the game, so you don’t earn experience directly by defeating monsters. Diamonds, the rarest currency, cannot be obtained in the game whatsoever and can only be earned with actual money.

What We Liked

  • The ability to stack items and power-ups for tougher dungeons and bosses.
  • Decent but somewhat repetitive soundtrack.

Room for Improvement

  • Movement is slippery. Knee Kick Girl commonly will keep circling around enemies or move in unexpected ways, especially on stairs and near walls and corners.
  • Attacks are stiff and somewhat delayed. Combined with the above point, Knee Kick Girl can easily be damaged even if she gets her attack, which temporarily stuns, off first.
  • While costing US $0.99, the game has a paywall, which can be seen in the item shop and after playing just three to four dungeons.
  • Poor grammar and syntax in dialogue, menus, and popups.

An example of Knee Kick Girl's paywall

I probably could tolerate Knee Kick Girl‘s faults more if it was not behind a paywall. I can understand the need for one in games such as this, but users are paying for this from the start only to be met with slippery, sometimes frustrating controls. Between this and how early the paywall arrives, it’s difficult for me to justify the cost.

Before you think about buying the game, consider Knee Kick Girl – Ghost Hunter, the free-to-play version.

The post Knee Kick Girl: an RPG with loose controls, a paywall, and a good soundtrack (App Review) appeared first on AndroidGuys.

1
Sep

Huawei Honor 7 vs Ascend Mate 7


All-metal handsets are not too common but last year, Huawei announced its Ascend Mate 7 and delivered its first all-metal device. This year, Huawei revealed the Honor 7, which brings an updated all-metal build and an experience that’s definitely been inspired by the Mate 7. What difference does a year make and how do these two handsets compare? Let’s find out.

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Design

The biggest similarity between these two devices is the all-metal aluminium build on the Honor 7 that’s been inspired by the Mate 7, which was Huawei’s first premium metal-clad smartphone. Building the Mate 7 last year has definitely helped Huawei learn more about metal smartphones and the Honor 7 comes with an all-new improved build in a smaller body.

A key change between the finish on each handset is that the Honor 7 has a matte rear that’s been blasted with ceramic particles to provide more grip. As part of its testing, Huawei blasted the rear of the Honor 7 with ceramic particles at several different blasting pressures and the finish is certainly premium in every sense of the word. A problem I’ve faced with the Ascend Mate 7 is that it scratches quite easily but hopefully the change in finish on the Mate 7 will fix this.

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Making smartphones is always a challenge and OEMs regularly have to compromise between putting a large display while still making a handset usable. The Ascend Mate 7 is definitely a large smartphone – thanks to its supersized display – and the smaller Honor 7 is a lot more manageable. At 8.5mm thick, the Honor 7 is 0.6cm thicker than the Ascend Mate 7 but 28 grams lighter and this difference in the build results in a handset that feels sturdy and reliable in the hand.

On the back, both handsets look very similar to one another but there are considerable differences, not least in the camera and the square sensor beneath it. The Mate 7 was Huawei’s first smartphone to come with a fingerprint sensor on the rear and stood out as you can unlock your phone by tapping the sensor, even with the display switched off.

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While they look identical, the fingerprint sensor on the Honor 7 has been updated and doesn’t come with a metallic ring on the sensor, which is a world first for smartphones. On the Mate 7, the fingerprint sensor is limited to just unlocking the phone but on the Honor 7, it has gained a few extra (and useful) features.

Thanks to gesture support, you can now return to the homescreen by pressing and holding the sensor, access notifications with a swipe down, pull up the recent apps menu with a swipe up and replicate the back key by tapping the sensor.

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Both handsets feature the power and volume keys on the right with the SIM card tray on the left but in making the Honor 7, Huawei have made some welcome improvements. The Honor 7 also comes with a new smart key, that lets you launch favourite applications or toggle certain features. As an example, I have it set up so a single press launches Twitter, a double press takes a screenshot and a long press and hold pulls up Google Now.

A change in Huawei’s design strategy over the past twelve months has meant the company has moved away from a rear speaker to a bottom-mounted one. The Mate 7 speaker is located on the rear and while it is certainly not bad, the monospeaker on the bottom of the Honor 7 is definitely more pleasing. The bottom of the Honor 7 also comes with new machine grilled holes that house the speaker but are also designed to make the experience more premium.

Display

The Ascend Mate 7 is definitely one of the larger devices on the market and in making the Honor 7, Huawei reduced the screen size significantly while keeping the same resolution. The Mate 7 has a 6.0-inch Full HD display while the Honor 7 screen is reduced to a much more manageable 5.2-inches.

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Thanks to the same resolution but a smaller display, the density on the Honor 7 display is much higher at 424 pixels per inch and this definitely shows, with the Honor 7 display appearing sharper to the eye.

Despite the smaller display, the Honor 7 has a lower screen to body ratio, with Huawei making the display frameless on the Ascend Mate 7 but having to add small bezels to the sides of the Honor 7 screen. I have quite large hands but even I’ve struggled to use the Mate 7 in one hand and happily, the Honor 7 is a lot easier to use in one hand.

Hardware

There’s no denying that the Honor 7 was heavily inspired by the Mate 7 but in making its latest handset, the Chinese company has certainly made some welcome improvements under the hood.

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Both handsets come with octa-core processors and Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin chipset but a key difference is in the chipset being used. The Mate 7 sports a Kirin 925 SoC, while the Honor 7 features a Kirin 935 SoC and other than the P8 Max, it is the first Huawei smartphone to use this newer chipset.

Both handsets use Cortex processors in a big.LITTLE formation but the Mate 7 uses older Cortex A-15 and A-7 processors with four cores clocked at 1.8GHz and four more clocked at 1.3GHz. In comparison, the Honor 7 uses eight Cortex-A53 processors, with four cores clocked at 2.2GHz and four more clocked at 1.5GHz.

The Mate 7 is available with either 16GB internal storage and 2GB RAM or 32GB storage and 3GB RAM while the Honor 7 comes with 3GB RAM as standard and either 16GB or 64GB storage. It’s worth noting that the 64GB variant of the Honor 7 is only sold in China and Huawei is yet to reveal whether this will be made available elsewhere.

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Both the Mate 7 and the Honor 7 come with expandable storage but on the Honor 7, the microSD card slot doubles up as the dual SIM card slot. A feature much lauded in the Mate 7 is dual SIM support but this was only present in certain variants of the headset and not the one launched in Europe. In comparison, the Honor 7 will support dual SIMs in every market with one SIM available for LTE use and the other limited to just calls or SMS.

A feature that particularly stands out on the Mate 7 is the enormous 4100mAh non-removable battery, which is definitely on the larger side of the market. The Mate 7 has a larger battery than most of its rivals and this translated to excellent battery life. In testing I’ve found the Mate 7 battery lasted a couple of days with moderate to high usage. While the Honor 7 has a smaller 3100mAh battery, Huawei claim it can still last 1.2days with heavy usage and over 2.5 days with moderate use.

For the times when it is running low, the Honor 7 also has you covered as it is the first Huawei smartphone to come with quick charging built in. Compatible with the British and European standards, the quick charging means you can charge for 5 minutes to make up to an hours’ worth of calls and charge to 50 percent battery in just 30 minutes.

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Given the price, it’s unsurprising that the quick charger doesn’t come included in the box but it shouldn’t be too expensive to acquire as an after-market accessory. The Honor 7 also comes with reversible charging (with the cable again not included in the box) allowing you to use it to charge another phone but given the battery size, it’s unlikely you’ll use the feature.

Both phones also come with dual antennae and Signal+ technology, which promises to ensure that the metal build never interferes with the signal strength. Using the dual antennae design, the handset can intelligently switch between antenna in a micro second depending on which is providing the best signal strength.

Alongside this, the Honor 7 also sports Wi-Fi+ technology, which improves battery life by automatically disabling Wi-Fi and re-enabling it when it recognises you are near a known Wi-Fi network. While the Wi-Fi+ technology has its benefits, it does rely on your location, which means you may find that any battery savings are negated by the need to scan your location.

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Both the Ascend Mate 7 and the Honor 7 come other hardware specs you would probably expect from a modern smartphone. These include Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to connect to wearable devices and LTE Cat 6, offering download speeds of up to 300Mbps and upload speeds up to 50Mbps.

The Honor 7 also comes with Wi-Fi ac promising better Wi-Fi performance and an infrared port which lets you control your smart appliances from your phone. However, the Honor 7 doesn’t come with NFC built-in which may be disappointing for some users but is a trend also adopted by the OnePlus 2.

Camera

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Another key change in the Honor 7 compared to the Mate 7 is in the camera. The 13MP camera on the Mate 7 isn’t the best on the market but has been improved massively, with the Honor 7 now sporting a Sony IMX230 module, which delivers 20MP resolution and all-importantly; phase detection auto focus.

Huawei claim the phase detection can focus on a subject in under 0.1 seconds, making it the fastest in the world on a smartphone and this is something that definitely shows. The camera housing has also been protected with sapphire crystal, which ensures the protruding camera doesn’t scratch and is difficult to damage.

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The Honor 7 comes with a range of software-based features that initially launched on the Huawei P8 earlier this year and these include the Good Food, timelapse and light painting modes. Huawei has also added a couple of new features to the Honor 7 camera including:

  • Demist filter to remove fog or smog from photos
  • Star tracking mode to capture the night sky
  • Two additions to the light painting mode in the form of silky water and taillight tracking.

Up front, the Mate 7 has a 5MP selfie camera but the Honor 7 tops this with an 8MP camera and two crucial new features. First, the presence of a soft light lets you capture selfies in varying lighting conditions and second, a new Perfect Selfie mode lets you replace your face in group shots with a pre-programmed selfie, which ensures you always look good when you take a group selfie.

Honor 7 camera samples

There’s no denying that on paper, the Honor 7 camera is certainly impressive especially when you consider it is an affordable smartphone and while it’s certainly not perfect, it delivers much better photos than the Ascend Mate 7.

Software

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One concern that many people have with Huawei smartphones is the Emotion UI software, which is very similar to Marmite in that you either like it or you don’t. An issue raised by many Android enthusiasts is regarding software updates and this is an issue that definitely impacts on Huawei devices, especially the flagship Ascend Mate 7.

Almost a year after it launched on Android 4.4.2 KitKat, the Mate 7 still runs on the older software version but this is not necessarily a bad thing. As we covered in the Huawei P8 review, Huawei’s latest Emotion UI v3.1 comes with some rather strange UI tweaks (such as a navigation menu where notifications are difficult to read) that feel broken and the older EMUI on the Mate 7 doesn’t suffer from these.

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Sadly, these elements make their way to the Honor 7 but while Huawei hasn’t fixed all of these quirky elements, it has added a few interesting new features:

  • The knuckle screenshot – which was absolutely atrocious on the P8 – has been improved so you can now double tap with your knuckle to take a screenshot or completely disable the feature in the settings.
  • EMUI also now comes with a Fast Shot setting that lets you double press the volume down button to launch the camera and take a picture. Coupled with phase detection autofocus, it should hopefully mean you won’t miss many shots and Huawei is so proud of the Honor 7 focusing speeds, that it even highlights how long it took to focus on a subject.
  • There’s also a hidden apps drawer, which lets you get rid of some of the icons on the homescreen by putting them in a hidden menu that can be accessed by pinching out. A good use case for this would be if you wanted to separate your work apps from your personal apps as you could hide the work apps and not need to see them once you leave the office.

Sadly, Emotion UI still doesn’t come with an app drawer which most users will find quite jarring and while we’ve asked Huawei to introduce the feature via an option in the settings, it’s unlikely we’ll see it anytime soon.

The beauty of Android is that you can change the launcher very easily and this should make the experience more enjoyable if you don’t like EMUI. Having tested Nova Launcher with the Honor 7, I can happily say that it works quite well and is a great alternative if Huawei’s EMUI isn’t for you.

Wrap Up

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The Ascend Mate 7 is without a doubt one of the most premium smartphones Huawei has ever released and the Honor 7 aims to continue this, with a new improved build, additional features and a much better camera in a smaller, more manageable body. Yes, the software is arguably more complete on the Mate 7 but while it’s not perfect, it is certainly more than manageable on the Honor 7.

Given the choice, I know which phone I’d rather have…

The Honor 7 has launched in the UK for just £249.99, which when you consider the specs, is an absolutely fabulous price. In comparison, it’s taken the Mate 7 nearly a year to drop to a similar price tag and the additional features in the Huawei Honor 7 mean it’s arguably the better handset.

Given the choice between these two handsets, I’d definitely pick the Honor 7 but what about you? What do you think of the Honor 7 and the changes made by Huawei since last year’s Ascend Mate 7? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to check out our full Honor 7 review!

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Buy Honor 7 on Amazon!

31
Aug

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 review


Buy now on Amazon

Editor's Choice Update 2015

Over the past few years, Samsung has followed a release cycle featuring two major flagships, under the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note monikers. Apart from the obvious difference in size, there has always been some separation in design, build quality, and features between the two series, and the mainstream acceptance of large display smartphones led to the Galaxy Note series emerging as the more compelling option in recent times.

With a new, yet controversial, design language, and some enhancements underneath the surface, does the latest addition to the Galaxy Note family continue the legacy of the series? We find out, in this comprehensive review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5!

 

Design

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Perhaps the most important part of the new Galaxy Note 5 is that it feels like we’ve been here before, and that starts with the design. Though much of the Galaxy design language remains as familiar as ever, the just-released Galaxy Note now takes its build quality cue from the latest Galaxy S series flagship, offering a metal and glass construction. Glass panels are kept together with a metallic frame, and all color options include translucent effects that literally make the phone shine and reflect.

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The use of glass means that the Note 5 is also the most fingerprint prone Note device we’ve seen, which is another trope that it derives from the Galaxy S6. But, unlike the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, the Galaxy Note 5 manages to be just a bit more than a blown up Galaxy S6, with its subtle curves along the sides of the back, that actually help with the handling of this large phone.

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Of course, much of what we all remember from Samsung devices returns here. The buttons are all where one would expect them, with the fingerprint scanner integrated into the tactile home button up front. The scanner now works with a simple touch, which is a far better implementation than the swipe version found with its predecessor. Down at the bottom is the microUSB port, the headphone jack, the speaker grill, as well as the S-Pen, nestled very neatly into the bottom right corner.

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The S-Pen also gets some real updates in design, as is evident when you pop out the top, which has been done in order allow the pen to be flush with the body, making it look and feel sleeker than before. The click on the top is yet another toy to mess with, and any avid S-Pen user will probably take advantage of it as they gather their thoughts in between taking down any notes.

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This is also a good place to address the “Pengate” controversy that has been making the rounds – while it is true that you are able to put the S-Pen into the slot backwards, that is certainly not a reason to do so. Even if the S-Pen could have fit backwards without affecting the sensor, I think all users should still be wary of how they are inserting this stylus, and the problem goes away.

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The new design language of the Note 5 brings one very significant change that is quite the point of contention, and that is the lack of a removable back cover, and all that it entails. That means no expandable storage via microSD card, and no user-replaceable battery. These were two features that previously made Galaxy Note devices the go-to phones for power users, and that is unfortunately not the case anymore. Sacrificing these two features does make for the thinnest, most beautifully constructed Galaxy Note smartphone ever though. Handling might suffer from a pretty slippery glass design (up until the fingerprints and smudges slow it down), but the Galaxy Note 5 still manages to have one of the most appealing aesthetics, even if it now feels overly familiar.

Display

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The Galaxy Note 5 comes with a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a 2560 x 1440 resolution, which is, on paper, identical to the display of its predecessor. However, the display has been incrementally enhanced to improve on an already fantastic viewing experience. Quad HD makes a lot of sense on a larger display, resulting in an excellent pixel density of 518 ppi, despite the large size. The high saturation Super AMOLED construction proves to be as great as ever, allowing for vibrant, vivid colors, and plenty of brightness for comfortable viewing in broad daylight. You do have the option to tone down the saturation though, if that better suits your tastes.

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What we think is the most important about this panel, however, is the really small bezel ratio. There is very little space on the sides of the display, which helps tremendously with the handling experience. For a phone that deals with text and writing, the screen really shines, but fire up a very colorful game or video and using this display will be an absolute joy.

Performance

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Performance is a high-point for the Galaxy Note 5, thanks to Samsung’s use of its in-house processing package, which has been optimized for the toned-down TouchWiz. The octa-core Exynos 7420 processor, clocked at 2.1 GHz, returns from the Galaxy S6, where it really shined, bringing with it an additional gigabyte of RAM, for 4 GB in total. That combination allows for some strong multi-tasking, and that’s great, given the availability of the S-Pen and all of its features.

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There is no doubt in our minds that this processing package is a great performer, as a whole week of above-average use has yet to slow down this phone, on which we’ve installed apps, used trackers, watched videos, played games, and taken lots of pictures and videos with. The Galaxy Note 5 succeeds where the Note line has always excelled – being the fastest and best iteration of the Galaxy experience in any given year.

Hardware

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In hardware, some familiar additions return with the Galaxy Note 5. On the back of the phone, right next to the camera package is where the heart rate monitor can be found. It works about as well as ever, thanks to a streamlined S-Health app, but this is not a feature you will probably use very often.

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The device packs a standard suite of connectivity options, including NFC, which will be a part of the upcoming Samsung Pay ecosystem. Phone calls come in loud and clear, and I had no dropped calls during my usage with the T-Mobile network. Speaking of audio, the single speaker unit on the bottom benefits from a better placement from before, but provides the expected quality. It gets pretty loud, but without much body in the sound, but we’re glad it doesn’t overdo the high ends though.

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Fingerprint reading is a thing of the future, and Samsung makes it work quite well in the Galaxy Note 5. Setting it up for Web sign-in credentials is possible, but, for the most part, the primary use of the fingerprint scanner will be to unlock the phone. The scanner’s usefulness will also see a bump when Samsung Pay officially launches later this year.

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On the storage front, the Galaxy Note 5 comes with 32 GB or 64 GB options, without the possibility to expand the storage, leaving power users dependent on choosing the larger version, along the premium it entails. As was the case with the Galaxy S flagships, the storage in the Galaxy Note 5 is UFS 2.0, which is a standard that can rival speeds of SSDs, and that helps with maximizing speed. That, of course, might not be reason enough to warrant the removal of expandable storage, but the smooth performance of the device can definitely be attributed to optimized internals, over a myriad of unknowns coming from microSD cards. A lot of people won’t be convinced, but it’s something we thought should be considered.

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Finally, when it comes to the battery, the Galaxy Note 5 packs a 3,000 mAh unit, and that capacity does seem a little bit small at first glance. In our testing, we found that the device could still handle a full day of work without any problems, though getting anything more than that is a stretch. Screen-on time never really got beyond 4.5 hours, but with an impressive standby time, if the device remains unused a lot, it might by easy to get more than a full day out of it.

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In attempting to keep the latest Galaxy Note phone as thin as possible, Samsung hit a hard limit on the battery size of the Note 5, and focused on charging it as fast as possible instead. For example, the Note 5 boasts faster wireless charging, although the high speeds are only available with Samsung’s own wireless charger. It is also nice that the device supports both the PMA and Qi wireless charging standards out of the box, but the cordless life that Samsung seemed very excited about at the launch event still feels a little far off.

The Note 5’s fast charging capabilities will prove more useful for most users, as the device requires only 10 to 15 minutes to get back to decent battery life, and only about an hour to be fully charged. Granted, fast charging does feel like a consolation prize for losing true longevity. But it shouldn’t be difficult to find 15-minute charging windows throughout the day, so that you aren’t worried about running out of juice.

Camera

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The Note 5 retains the quality in the camera department, quite literally in this case: the camera on the device is basically the same with the Galaxy S6′, with its 16 MP rear shooter with a f/1.9 aperture and 4K video recording capabilities, along with a 5 MP wide angle lens front-facing camera.

By far, the best part about the camera experience is the ability to bring it up by simply hitting the home button twice, which will quickly and easily launch the camera app. The manual controls of the mostly familiar app have been given a few more options, such as being able to change the Kelvin reading in the white balance slider, which isn’t available with the Galaxy S6 camera.

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There are all the usual modes as well, with everything from slow motion, to a new video collage mode that is fun to use. Live broadcasting is also now available, with YouTube as the platform, which is basically a Periscope built into the app. We think it isn’t something most users will use, and even then, more established streaming services like Snapchat or Periscope might still take priority. Shooting in the app is nice and quick in most situations, and though there is some spot metering when tapping to focus, a slider for changing the exposure does appear if you need it.

Picture quality remains as great as ever, keeping Samsung at the top of the heap in the Android world. Good saturation across the board keeps pictures from ever being dull, and detail is also captured really well. Users can benefit from the f/1.9 aperture for depth of field effects, and it does help a bit in low light situations. Of course, pictures do get the expected level of noise due to higher ISO compensation, and the app gets a little slow when trying to focus in low light conditions. Much like the Galaxy S6 proved earlier this year, the great camera experience of the Galaxy Note 4 can be improved upon, and thus, the Galaxy Note 5 gets all the benefits of this past year’s evolution in camera quality and performance.

Software

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On the software side of things, the main story is in how streamlined this version of Android has become, as much of what bogged down Samsung’s operating system has been stripped away. What remains is actually quite useful: namely, certain gestures and a theme engine that does well to change the look of the interface. Plenty of features can be found with just a little bit of digging, like easy access to Multi-window from the Recent Apps screen, as well as the one-handed features, easily triggered by hitting the home button three times. Just like with the Galaxy S6, there are far less tutorials and annoying reminders of what the phone can do, which is probably one of the highlights of this version of TouchWiz.

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Of course, the additions mostly relate to the S-Pen, which has been streamlined with the rest of TouchWiz. Some features from before have been removed, instead prioritizing the most used abilities of the S-Pen, such as Smart Select, Screen Write, and memo creation. You can also use the S-Pen like a mouse, which is best demonstrated in places like the Gallery or while scrolling through text, where holding down and then dragging to select is nice and easy.

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Creating memos is easier than ever on the Galaxy Note 5, as removing the S-Pen when the phone is in standby no longer wakes it, but instead, the display remains black, and a screen-off memo pad opens up. For any time when the user needs to quickly jot down any information, the Galaxy Note 5 is as accessible as a pad of paper, and even if this feature isn’t used all the time, its addition is certainly appreciated.

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Taking the S-Pen out in any other situation, or pressing the button on it, opens up the refreshed Air Command menu, which now also includes a few shortcuts to user-defined applications, though it does feel weird to put anything on this list that doesn’t ultimately take advantage of the stylus. The Action Memo is still able to read handwriting and insert it into a number of different applications, though the feature mainly remains a way of quickly adding to S-Note. In S-Note, every note can be easily pinned to the homescreen, as well as turned into a reminder; both of these features are practical and make the Screen-Off Memo that much more appealing to use regularly.

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Smart Select is also as powerful as before, as any portion of the screen can be cut out and easily shared. For anyone that likes to talk in messaging apps through pictures and memes, like I do, Smart Select is pretty awesome. Finally, there is Screen Write, which takes screenshots of the current workspace for editing and sharing. Now, scrollable places like Web pages can be pieced together automatically, creating a long image or note than encompasses everything you want to save from the page.

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What is probably best about the S-Pen is that it actually feels a bit more essential than before, and that was achieved by not oversaturating it with buttons or tutorials, or even raw features. The list of S-Pen abilities is not as long as before, but there are solid use case scenarios for every single feature that is available. Even if you almost never use the S-Pen, it’s an addition that proves its worth every time you say “why not,” and perform your typical task with it instead.

Specifications

Display 5.7-inch Super AMOLED
2560 x 1440 resolution
Processor Exynos 7420
RAM 4GB (LPDDR4)
Storage 32/64 GB
Camera 16 MP rear camera with OIS
5 MP front-facing camera
Connectivity WiFi a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS + GLONASS
Networks LTE cat 6 300/50
Battery 3,000 mAh
Fast charging
WPC and PMA-compatible wireless charging
Software Android 5.1 Lollipop with TouchWiz
Dimensions 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6mm, 171g
Colors black sapphire, white pearl, gold platinum

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

The Galaxy Note 5 was made available just days after its launch across all major carriers in the US, and as expected, it comes at a steep price point. In total, about $700 is what you will shell out to get Samsung’s latest addition to the Galaxy Note line, whether or not you use payment plans on AT&T, T-Mobile, or elsewhere.

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Editor's Choice Update 2015

So, there you have it for this in-depth look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 5! It’s hard not to look at the Galaxy Note 5 in comparison to what Samsung has offered in the past, because of the company’s decision to take quite a departure in design and hardware choices. This phone may not feel like a power user’s device anymore, and people who feel that way are completely validated in doing so. For those who expected more, this new iteration feels too much like the Galaxy S6 in terms of what features it leaves out.

On the flip side, the Note 5 takes the best of what the Galaxy S6 offered and brings it to a bigger and better package. The stellar display is even better at 5.7-inches, the performance is super smooth and reliable for any and all usage levels, and the camera is one of the best in Android today. Expandable storage and replaceable batteries might be missed, but we were still able to enjoy the Note in spite of that. If we work with what is given, this phone still delivers. At first look, many people were not convinced that the device was worth the upgrade, but spend some time with it, and there is a good chance that you will fall in love with the Note, just like you did before.

Buy now on Amazon

30
Aug

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ review


Editor's Choice Update 2015

Samsung’s first venture into the curved edge display game began with the Galaxy Note Edge, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that Samsung would truly perfect the concept by introducing a dual-edge design to the Galaxy S family. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is easily one of the most eye-catching and uniquely designed smartphones we’ve seen from Samsung in a while, and now Samsung has taken a page from some of its competitors’ playbooks, giving the handset the “Plus treatment”.

Does the plus-sized S6 Edge bring more to the table than the original? We find out this and more in our comprehensive review of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+!

Design

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-19

By now, we have a fair idea of what to expect whenever the “plus” suffix is tacked on at the end of a smartphone that already exists, with it usually involving a significantly larger display and the resulting bigger footprint, and in some cases, a bump in specifications and features. That remains true for the Galaxy S6 Edge+. The device features the same beautiful design as its smaller sibling, including the metal frame, glass panels up front and on the back, and the sloping, curved sides on the display that give the phone its name.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-9

On the right side of the phone is the very conveniently-placed and easy to reach power button, but that isn’t the case with the volume rocker, which are towards the top of the left side, making it quite awkward to reach. There is no longer an IR blaster to be found, so up top is only the microphone and the SIM card slot, while at the bottom are the headphone jack, microUSB port, a single speaker unit, and a secondary microphone.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-8

For  those who felt the regular Galaxy S6 Edge to be quite sharp in the hand, that feeling alleviated with the Galaxy S6 Edge+, thanks to the side rails being slightly thicker, and the chamfered edges not being as prominent as before. On the flip side, the bigger footprint also means that one-handed usage, while manageable, isn’t as comfortable anymore. Not helping the handling experience is the fact that the phone can be pretty slippery, and the device is also quite the fingerprint magnet, which is very noticeable if you have any of the darker color options. Of course, the device still looks fantastic though, and basically, if you loved the design of the Galaxy S6 Edge, you won’t find anything to complain about this time around either.

Display

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-18

The Galaxy S6 Edge+ features a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a Quad HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 518 ppi. Samsung somehow always manages to outdo themselves every year when it comes to display tech, and so it is no surprise that this display is absolutely fantastic. Everything we love about AMOLED screens returns here, including vibrant, saturated colors, great viewing angles, inky dark blacks, and good brightness for easy outdoor visibility.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-16

The bump in display size to 5.7-inches, compared to the 5.1-inch screen of its flagship namesake, means that this display is perfect for gaming, watching movies, and pretty much anything else you may want to do. Because of the dual curved edges the content you are looking at to also be curved and creates a very cool looking effect, especially when swiping between screens. There have been claims of things looking distorted because of the edges, but that certainly wasn’t the case for me, and I am personally a big fan of the waterfall effect that the curved glass created.

Performance

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-7

Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ packs the same octa-core Exynos 7420 processor as the original, clocked at 2.1 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T760MP8 GPU, but with an additional gig of RAM, for 4 GB in total. As was the case with the current Galaxy S flagships, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is extremely fast in day to day use, and everything from general navigation and web browsing, to multi-tasking and gaming, are a breeze. The availability of an additional gig of RAM seems to have allowed Samsung to scale back on the aggressive RAM management issues that plagued the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, with it being possible to load and run a lot more applications simultaneously, before running into any unwanted app refreshes.

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Some of the credit for the general improvement in performance with Samsung devices this year has to do with the toning down and optimization of the software, but while the experience has been smooth and snappy for the most part, Samsung still hasn’t figured out a fix for the scrolling stutters that occur when moving in between the Flipboard secondary screen and the main home screen. It is far from a deal breaker of course, and is a rather small blemish in the grand scheme of things, but is still very noticeable.

Hardware

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-13

On the hardware front, you get the usual bells and whistles that are now the standard with Samsung flagships, such as the heart rate monitor on the back, and the fingerprint scanner that is integrated into the tactile home button up front.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-5

The fingerprint scanner is still just as fast, reliable, and accurate as it was on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge, with just a simple press and hold of the home button required to unlock the device, and its usefulness as a security measure is only going to be enhanced with the upcoming launch of Samsung Pay. Multiple fingerprints can be stored at a time, and the process of setting it up is simple and takes only a minute or two, involving just repeated presses of the home button. The fingerprint software is easy to use, and a minor improvement has been made to allow you to find out which fingerprints have been registered, just in case you ever forget.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-10

The Galaxy S6 Edge+ comes with either 32 GB or 64 GB of built-in storage, and with there still not being any microSD card slot, power users will have to depend on the larger storage option to meet their needs. Samsung also opted to leave out a 128 GB iteration, so 64 GB is going to be as good as it gets.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-4

As far as the speaker quality is concerned, it is fairly standard, and certainly gets the job done. The bottom-facing single speaker unit sounds good and gets loud enough to be heard even in noisy environments. Being at the bottom is still not the most optimal position, but it is definitely a better implementation than any rear-facing setup out there.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-15

One of the biggest issues with the original Galaxy S6 Edge and the Galaxy S6 was with regards to battery life, and it was quite difficult to get a full day of use out of these two smartphones. That problem seems to have been fixed with the Galaxy S6 Edge+, however. Even though its 3,000 mAh battery may seem a little small given the large Quad HD display it has to power, I’ve had no problems whatsoever getting through a full day. If you do end up running out of juice, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ not only comes with fast wired charging capabilities, but also introduces fast wireless charging as well. This only works with Samsung’s wireless charger, but Samsung claims that you can now charge the phone wirelessly in 2 hours, which is 33% faster than normal.

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Camera

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-11

The camera on the Galaxy S6 Edge+ remains largely the same as what was available with the Galaxy S6 Edge, with its 16 MP sensor with a f/1.9 aperture and optical image stabilization, along with a 5 MP front-facing unit also with a f/1.9 aperture, that allows for some great looking selfies even in low light conditions.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-25

Also returning is the double tap of the home button feature that lets you quickly launch the camera and take a shot. The camera app is where you will notice the biggest change in the camera experience. There are still many of the same modes as before, including selective focus, panorama, and virtual shot, along with the typical auto and manual modes, but Samsung has now added the ability to create video collages that allow you to stitch four 6 second clips together into one video, for those who really want to get creative. Another notable addition is the live broadcast button, which links directly to your Youtube account to allow you to share moments right as they happen with your followers, similar to what is possible with something like Periscope.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-24

Samsung also made a pretty big deal about the improvements to the video side of things. They’ve added what they call VDIS, or video digital image stabilization, that works in conjunction with OIS for more stable footage. In my experience, the video recording is very stable and smooth, without any sort of warping or distortion, so it seems to be doing its job well.

As far as the picture quality is concerned, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ takes excellent looking shots, which is not really surprising, given Samsung’s track record with their smartphone cameras. In daylight, photos are sharp and full of detail, with great contrast and dynamic range, and very vibrant and saturated colors. HDR works very well to bring out some extra detail, especially in high contrast scenarios, and if you don’t want to fumble around with HDR, you can always set it to Auto and let the camera decide for you. The f/1.9 aperture not only helps to produce some great looking depth of field, but also makes for some very good low light shots. The image retains the same vibrant colors, with some noise noticeable in only extremely low light conditions. It honestly doesn’t matter whether you’re in daylight, lowlight, indoors, or outdoors, this is a camera that anyone can take out of their pocket and start taking great-looking photos.

Software

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-22

On the software side of things, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, with the latest iteration of Samsung’s TouchWiz on top. It is a much cleaner interface with a lot less bloatware, that makes for a much snappier experience. It is still a very brightly-colored interface though, but you now have the option to easily and completely change the look to something that better suits your tastes via the available theme store. All the typical staple Samsung features are available here, including split screen multi-tasking via multi-window, and various motion-based gestures, but the difference here is with regards to the edge specific features, which Samsung has made a few improvements to from the Galaxy S6 Edge.

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People Edge, night clock, edge lighting, and information stream return, but there is a new Apps Edge that lets you hand pick several of your favorite applications for easier access. The People and Apps Edge features can now also be accessed from anywhere on the phone and not just the home screen, and the pull tab can be relocated to anywhere along the left or right edge, to make it easier and more comfortable to reach. All of these changes are very welcome additions, but the edge features still don’t feel extremely useful, and don’t add a whole lot of value to the edge design either.

Specifications

Display 5.7-inch Super AMOLED
2560 x 1440 resolution, 515 ppi
Processor Exynos 7420
RAM 4 GB
Storage 32/64 GB, not expandable
Camera 16 MP rear camera with OIS
5 MP front-facing camera
Connectivity WiFi a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS + GLONASS
Networks LTE cat 6 300/50
Battery 3,000 mAh
Fast charging
WPC and PMA-compatible wireless charging
Software Android 5.1 Lollipop with TouchWiz
Dimensions 154.4 x 75.8 x 6.9mm, 153g
Colors black sapphire, white pearl, gold platinum, green emerald

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

The Galaxy S6 Edge+ is available now from all major US carriers, priced at $299.99, with a two-year contractual commitment, for the 32 GB version, with the 64 GB option setting you back an additional $100. Off-contract, the device can be found for an expensive $815 and $915 respectively.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-17

Editor's Choice Update 2015

So there you have it for this in-depth look at the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+! As was the case with its smaller sibling, you will have to decide whether the dual curved edges is worth the premium that is required when compared to other flagships. If you loved everything about the Galaxy S6 Edge, but wished it has a larger screen and expected better battery life, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ is the answer. The value here is in the beautiful hardware, but not so much in the software, and if you are perfectly alright with that, then the Galaxy S6 Edge+ will definitely be worth your hard earned money.

28
Aug

Want to learn binary? Binary Challenge has you covered!


As you read this right now, your device is busy working away and processing whatever is thrown at it. All this is done is binary. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, but do you know how to read binary ? If you’re the cool computer nerd type of person, look no further if you want to learn how to read and write in 1’s and 0’s!

Setup

As the app is about learning binary, you’ll learn what excatly binary is first. Although the app explains it,  I suggest you watch a YouTube video or two as you’ll get what binary is about. In the app, you start off easily as you get a lot of help. While the user interface is a bit confusing, it’s easy to get the hang of it.

You start off in the tutorial mode and explained how exactly it works. I’m gonna leave the explaining to the app itself, but it’s easy to get the hang of. The only setting (at least that I could find) was the music/volume toggle. It’s all what’s necessary, but it would be cool to be able to change themes and colors.

Function

I’m still undecided if it’s an app or a game, but either way Binary Challenge ends up being fun and educational at the same time. As it is a long-term thing-, you will need to dedicate into the app at least a few weeks until you can fluently read binary. As you do it over and over agian, it gets stuck in your brain. This method is very efficient.

As for the actual app, you’re given the 8 slots for the 1’s or 0’s and given a number. Or, you’re given the binary and told to convert to a number. The app challenges you with time and achievements. I found that I unintentionally did more conversions while intentionally trying to lower my lowest time, if that makes any sense to you. It’s easy to get drawn into it, and there’s a reason for that:

The dark design & the futuristic ambient music really draw you into the game and help you concentrate Sudoku-like on the calculations

The developers

Everything was smooth and lag was not present. Overall I quite liked the app and what it does.

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Screenshot_2015-08-26-17-39-49
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Is it for me?

As you clicked the link to this page, you displayed interest in it in the first place. In that case, yes, it it likely to appeal to you.

What we liked:
  • Has a good purpose
  • Easy to use
  • Adapts to your learning
And not so much:
  • Messy UI

Overall, Binary Challenge is an app that I enjoyed using. It’s effectiveness meant I knew how to read binary in no time, and then give me practice. It’s a great tool for any binary pioneer.

The post Want to learn binary? Binary Challenge has you covered! appeared first on AndroidGuys.

28
Aug

Review: Pac-Man 256 is a thrilling throw-back with the original Maze Runner


PacMan256-Ghosts

Endless runner games are a dime a dozen these days. With respect to some of them, the graphical approach or design aesthetics are so nice that it’s a shame they couldn’t be adapted for a more traditional platformer or action title. One recent game that stood out was Crossy Road, a somewhat modern take on the classic Frogger format. The title was extremely successful, and the developers Yodo1 Games have now released their follow-up title, a collaboration with Namco.

Origins

To understand Pac-Man 256, we must first go back in time to the original game that started it all, Pac-Man. Due to limitations in programming, the game contained a problem, of sorts: If a player could successfully get to the 256th stage of the game, half of the screen would be “glitched” and filled with random numbers, letters, and shapes of all colors along the right hand side. It was thus impossible to actually clear the board as only half of it would appear.

pacman-256-1024x576

The stage from the original that gave birth to this product.

GamersFTW

Given how seemingly impossible it was to beat even a dozen stages of the game for some people, the prospect of winning a several hundred is a daunting task indeed, especially given that in later stages, the Power Pellet invincibility power-up actually doesn’t have any effect whatsoever.

Play to Win

The goal of Pac-Man 256 is a simple one: try to get as high a score as possible before getting chomped by the various Ghosts that populate the board. There are a few ways to do this:

Pac-Pellets

The most basic point principal is the individual pellets that litter the board: they are cumulative and thus the more you eat, the more your score increases. Eat 256 in a row without breaking the sequence and all Ghosts on the screen will be immediately killed and the counter will reset to 1. The effect is quite nifty, though truth be told I have only able to accomplish it once, and via the Magnet power up at that. Which brings me to the next score factor:

Power-Ups

Screenshot_2015-08-27-09-26-10

The game makes use of 16 different power ups, each unlocked by eating a certain number of Pac-Pellets. As you gain access to more advanced ones, the game requires more pellets. There are several main types of power-ups, and then shall we say, variations on them. One of the basic ones, Fire, causes flames to trail your path, however later a superior version is unlocked where the flames radiate themselves in several different directions. Magnet, which I referred to earlier, is another, and basically sucks in all collectibles on the board within the circumference of the traction; it’s an absolute wiz for getting a big Pellet multiplier.

Screenshot_2015-08-24-23-40-33

Power Pellets

Always the staple of the Pac-Man world, Power Pellets grant temporary invincibility to The Yellow One. During this time, Ghosts can be eaten, with the first one providing a 10 point boost, and each additional Ghost being worth 10 additional points. Thus the second is worth 20, the third 30, and so on.

As the maze is endless and randomly generated, there are often times when you can actually manage to find a second Power Pellet before the first one’s time period has expired thus extending the duration and allowing you to wrack up some mad points.

Fruit

Another Pac-Man world staple, there are various Fruit items that appear on the board including Cherries, Melons, Strawberries, and Oranges. These temporairly provide an extra score multiplier and are often used in tandem with the various Prize Goals (more on that later). Each type of Fruit has a different multiplier value.

In App Purchases

Pac Man 256 Title Screen

The title screen offers a perfect introduction to the basic Credit system.

Personally, I loathe IAP, perhaps largely because I grew up in the days before DLC existed and hence gaming meant (1) purchasing a (2) finished product. These days, you have all kinds of nice looking games that are absolutely ruined by the freemium business model, at least in my honest opinion. Thankfully, Pac-Man 256 makes use of the IAP premise in a very well done, tasteful manner.

Credits

The game allocates 5 Credits (lives basically), and there are a couple of ways in which you can use them:

Power-Ups To play the game with any of the power-ups you have unlocked and selected for use, 1 Credit is required.

Continuing After you die, 1 Credit can be used to continue from that spot, with all nearby Ghosts eliminated.

Screenshot_2015-08-24-23-40-39

Game Over: After the second (Credit-required) death, it’s truly lights out. In this instance the “corruption” caused the death.

Assuming you do both, this means 2 Credits per game. After the first one is spent, a timer will immediately begin to countdown, signaling when the supply will be replenished (by one). This is basically the same mechanic that exists in many of these types of games. Thankfully, you can actually play the game without using any Credits, though doing so will negate the presence of any Power-Ups, except for Power Pellets; they are always present.

Of course, for a cost, you can actually unlock Unlimited Credits. While I was tempted to do this, honestly speaking the rate at which the Credits regenerate is much faster than in other games and thus seemed rather unnecessary. Beyond that, I worried that by having the ability to play endlessly would cause me to immediately tire of the game; there is something to be said by the moderation that down time enforces.

Coins

Screenshot_2015-08-27-09-26-18

Coins are used to Level Up your Power-Ups. Each has 8 levels, and activating a new level requires larger and larger amounts of coins to do so. For most of the improvements, only the duration improves, but with some like the Pac Men Power-Up above, the value of each Ghost chomped during the time period increases. Opting to spend coins and Level Up the Power-Up results in a down-time during which it is unusable, though you can swap it out for another.

Earning the Cheddar

Coins are normally earned by picking them up on the game board, and seemingly as a factor of your total score for each game. There is of course, another way to get them: spending real money. In the Pac Man Power-Up picture mentioned earlier, you will notice a small icon in the top right corner, which is used to bring up the IAP screen:

Screenshot_2015-08-27-09-26-29

At the moment, you can’t actually buy coins, just a Coin Doubler which will, obviously, double the number of coins you earn. Note however, the price for the feature, along with the aforementioned Unlimited Credit. As I am located in Japan the currency unfortunately will not convert to dollars even though I set the language to English for purposes of this review. For reference, $1 is currently around 120 Yen, so we’re talking in upwards of $5 here to unlock features.

Control freak

Control of the game is touch based, and simply requires you to slide your finger in the direction you want Pac-Man to travel. This can essentially be done before he even hits a corner or intersection, and thus makes the task all the more easy.

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The game does let you “stand still” when faced against a wall, perfect for those times when there is a nearby Power-Up you want to get but need to wait for your current one to expire before it will reappear. Note that if you wait too long however, the “Glitch” will creep up from the bottom of the screen and kill you if the majority of it touches you.

Screenshot_2015-08-24-23-40-20

It’s coming to get you.

Sound and Graphics

Given that the product we are dealing with is something from the 80’s masquerading in modern times, don’t expect much from the audio or visual department. What you see in these pictures is literally what you get: pixels. Likewise there is basically no music to be had save for the opening jingle, and the same basic sound effects that graced the original games.

Get it NOW!

While I very, very rarely play mobile games, Pac-Man 256 managed to truly impress me. It offers up a very interesting take on the series, yet doesn’t feel forced at all. This is, in a sense, exactly what Pac-Man has always been about: endless mazes. It’s just now there are no set boards, rather you have one long, eternal one that changes color and shape as you go up it.

The IAP content is well managed and never in-your-face, and the gameplay is extremely addictive and keeps you coming back for more. Any fan of the 80’s arcade gaming scene, or Pac-Man in general, owes it to themselves to at least give this a try.

Download from the Google Play Store

27
Aug

DU Speed Booster: a device optimizer packed with features (App Review)


For this review, we will cover DU Speed Booster, an Android optimizer app. This kind of app is designed to better a device’s performance by cleaning cached memory, getting rid of junk files, and managing storage.

You may remember that we reviewed Systweak Android Cleaner two weeks ago. Just as with that app, DU Speed Booster is vying for your attention in this competitive market.

Setup

DU Speed Booster has an easy, fast setup. All you need to do is download and install the app from Google Play, and open it. Upon doing so, you’ll get to the following main screen.

DU Speed Booster's main screen

Features and Functions

The app contains the following: Phone Boost, Trash Cleaner, App Manager, Speed Test, a Security hub, Game Booster, and Battery Saver.

Phone Boost clears cache from running background services in order to give the system memory. This can be automated by going to settings.

DU Speed Booster's Phone Booster

Trash Cleaner targets junk files and cache in internal storage and on SD cards.

The App Manager is able to batch install or uninstall apps. Also, apps can be moved between internal and external storage.

The Speed Test shows the ping, download speed, and upload speed of your network. You can compare your stats to others by selecting the “VS” button at the bottom. The “Speed Up” button leads to “Network Boost,” which increases a network’s usable bandwidth by targeting apps that use it.

Within the Security Hub are an antivirus function, Privacy Advisor, and DU AppLock.

DU Speed Booster’s built-in antivirus is straightforward. Tapping the menu button at the top right gives the option to scan the SD card.

Privacy Advisor divides apps into lists based on what information they can access. Click on a list, and you’ll be able to uninstall apps from there.

DU Speed Booster's Privacy Advisor

DU AppLock locks apps behind a pattern passcode you specify.

DU Speed Booster's AppLock

The Game Booster places games into an optimized folder. By doing this, the app knows to turn off background apps not needed automatically, clean junk files and memory, and monitor RAM usage and storage space for that game.

Lastly, Battery Saver actually links to another app: DU Battery Saver | Power Doctor. And because of this, that is all we will say about it for now.

I believe DU Speed Booster is a well-designed app with it’s animations and modern, dark blue aesthetic. Although, some may not like its color scheme, in preference of a lighter theme.

Additionally, it has many settings, which I can’t fully cover with this review, such as a notification toolbar, ignore lists, quick switches, and a float window.

The only downside I have with it is that Battery Saver is not included in the app itself.

What We Like

  • Great design
  • Ability to schedule the booster for automation
  • Many settings
  • Optimizer widget
  • Floating window widget

What We Don’t Like

  • Dark aesthetic could be hard on the eyes in certain situations
  • Battery Saver is not a part of actual app

To wrap this up, DU Speed Booster is a terrific optimizer app packed with features. If it was only capable of memory and app management, I’d still consider this to be quite good. And yet, it goes beyond that by including built-in anti-malware, a way to lock apps behind a passcode, a network speed test, widgets, and more. You can’t go wrong with this if you decide to use it as your optimizer app.

For those of you who already have an anti-malware app and/or don’t need this many features, consider reading our review of Systweak Android Cleaner, which does the essentials well.

The post DU Speed Booster: a device optimizer packed with features (App Review) appeared first on AndroidGuys.

27
Aug

Huawei Honor 7 vs Honor 6 Plus


The mid-range is fast taking the spotlight from the flagship, and Huawei’s Honor sub-brand is just one of the players aiming to offer premium specs at an affordable price. In the case of the Honor 7, the company has taken last year’s flagship Ascend Mate 7 and combined it with the Honor 6 Plus to create an affordable yet premium-feeling smartphone.

The Honor 7 is one of those smartphones that aims to combine a premium build with impressive specs and an even more impressive price tag, but how does it compare to the Honor 6 Plus? Let’s take a look.

Honor-7-vs-Huawei-Honor-6-Plus-AA-(12-of-13)

Design

The Honor 6 Plus is certainly an interesting smartphone thanks to its plastic finish that features a dot-matrix design and certainly looks cool, but the switch to a brushed aluminium finish on the Honor 7 makes the new handset infinitely more premium.

At 8.5mm thick, the Honor 7 is 1mm thicker than the Honor 6 Plus but a tad lighter (157 grams vs 165 grams) and the added thickness does mean the handset is a lot more reassuring in the hand. Measuring 143.2 x 71.9mm, the Honor 7 is both smaller and narrower than the Honor 6 Plus – mainly due to the smaller screen – but this change in size means the handset is more manageable in the hand.

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The back of the Honor 6 Plus features a plastic finish and that quirky-yet-somewhat-odd dot-matrix design, and the biggest issue with this is the tendency to attract fingerprints. With the Honor 7, the switch to a metal finish means this is no longer an issue.

The matte finish on the Honor 7 has been blasted with ceramic particles to give it a brushed effect that also provides grip and the change is most certainly welcome. An Honor executive told us that designing the finish on the Honor 7 required blasting ceramic materials at different blasting pressures in order to achieve the eventual finish.

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Beneath the camera is arguably one of the best features on the Honor 7: the fingerprint sensor. While fingerprint sensors are certainly not new, the Honor 7 brings an updated version of the excellent sensor that debuted on the Ascend Mate 7. The redesigned sensor is the first ever sensor on a smartphone not to feature a metallic ring around it, while Huawei has also added other features to it.

Thanks to gesture support, the sensor can now act as a back button that, by simply tapping it, lets you return to the homescreen by pressing and holding the sensor, pull down the notification sensor by swiping down on the sensor and access the recent apps menu by swiping up on the sensor. The position of the sensor on the rear is such that it is where your finger naturally rests and you’ll find the gestures become very useful in day to day use.

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On the right, both smartphones feature the power and volume keys but a key change is that in the Honor 7, the keys are less recessed and have been crafted from ceramic, making them easier to locate and press without looking at the handset. Another change is that while the Honor 6 Plus features separate SIM and microSD card trays on the right, the Honor 7 combines these into one tray which is located on the left.

Beneath the tray on the Honor 7 is another new addition in the form of a button called Smart Key, which lets you launch favourite applications or toggle certain system features. As an example, I have it set up that a single press launches Twitter, a double press takes a screenshot and a long press pulls up Google Now. All of these options are customisable and it’s a quick and easy way to access your favourite applications from any screen.

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To the bottom and another change as the Honor 7 houses a bottom-mounted speaker – like the all-metal Huawei P8 – while the Honor 6 Plus has Huawei’s older rear-mounted speaker design. The metal finish on the Honor 7 meant that Huawei couldn’t use a rear-mounted speaker and this is a change that has paid off with the Honor 7 monospeaker appearing to be much louder than the Honor 6 Plus.

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Display

The Honor 7 is the follow up to the Honor 6 and not the Honor 6 Plus and features a 5.2-inch Full HD display, which is slightly smaller than the 5.5-inch panel found on the Honor 6 Plus. Both smartphones features the same Full HD resolution and the smaller panel on the Honor 7 delivers a slightly higher 424 pixels per inch density (versus 401 ppi on the Honor 6 Plus).

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Despite a slightly larger build, the Honor 6 Plus has a higher screen-to-body ratio than the Honor 7, with the larger handset delivering a 73.2% ratio, while the Honor 7 has a slightly lower ratio of 72.4%. As someone with large hands, the Honor 6 Plus was mostly manageable but the smaller size of the Honor 7 is definitely much easier to use.

Hardware and performance

Like past Huawei smartphones, both the Honor 7 and the Honor 6 Plus are powered by Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin chipsets but a key difference is in the chipset being used. The Honor 6 Plus sports a Kirin 925 SoC with 2GB RAM while the Honor 7 is the first smartphone (apart from the Huawei P8 Max) to use the new Kirin 935 SoC with 3GB RAM.

Both handsets use octa-core Cortex processors in a big.LITTLE formation and while the Honor 6 Plus uses the older Cortex A-15 and A-7 cores (clocked at 1.8GHz and 1.3GHz respectively), the Honor 7 uses the newer Cortex-A53 cores, with four cores clocked at 2.2GHz and four more at 1.5GHz.

The Honor 6 Plus is certainly no slouch in the performance market but an extra gigabyte of RAM coupled with the much improved processor and the newer and faster Cortex-A53 cores delivers much better performance on the Honor 7.

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Both smartphones also come with expandable storage, which lets you expand the 16/32GB storage on the Honor 6 Plus or the 16/64GB storage on the Honor 7, and like past Huawei devices, the microSD card tray can also be used as a dual SIM card slot. It’s worth noting that the 64GB storage variant of the Honor 7 is currently only available in China with Huawei yet to confirm if this will be made available elsewhere around the world.

Having the option to use two SIM cards definitely makes both of these devices a lot more appealing, but only one SIM card can be used for LTE, with the other limited to just voice or SMS. While this is somewhat disappointing, it’s unsurprising given the price tag and it’s certainly nice to have dual SIM functionality if you are someone who uses two different SIM cards.

Both smartphones feature non-removable batteries, which is unsurprising as it’s a trend that most manufacturers are adopting in their devices. The Honor 6 Plus features a 3,500 mAh battery but despite the extra thickness, the Honor 7 actually drops the battery life by 400mAh, although the 3,100 mAh battery is by no means small.

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The Honor 6 Plus has impressive battery life and it is hoped that the Honor 7 also delivers on the battery front, despite the smaller battery size. Huawei itself claims the battery can last 2.57 days with moderate usage or over 1.2 days with heavy usage and to see whether it lives up to these claims, we’d recommend checking out our full Honor 7 review.

The Honor 7 is also the first Huawei smartphone to come with fast charging built-in. Huawei says the fast charging lets you charge for five minutes’ to make an hour’s worth of calls and can charge to 50 percent in just 30 minutes.

It’s worth noting that the fast charger isn’t included in the box due to the lower price tag but it shouldn’t cost too much to buy as an after-market accessory. Both handsets also support reversible charging that lets you charge another phone using a USB-On-The-Go cable but the cable isn’t included in the box and you’re unlikely to use this with the smaller Honor 7 battery capacity.

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A key problem with metal devices is signal interference but Huawei has solved this with a dual antenna design that intelligently switches between antennae in a micro second depending on which is providing the strongest signal strength. Alongside this, the Honor 7 also supports Wi-Fi+ technology, which aims to improve battery life by automatically disabling Wi-Fi and then re-enabling it when it recognises you are near a known Wi-Fi network.

As you’d expect from a modern smartphone, the Honor 7 and Honor 6 Plus also come with a range of other connectivity options, including an infrared port to control electrical appliances, Bluetooth 4.0 LE to connect to wearable devices and LTE Cat 6, which offers download speeds of up to 300Mbps and upload speeds up to 50Mbps on the go.

Camera

Arguably the biggest change between the Honor 6 Plus and the Honor 7 is in the camera, with Huawei opting to replace the dual cameras on the Honor 6 Plus with a more traditional single camera arrangement on the Honor 7, which protrudes from the rear but is protected by sapphire crystal to prevent scratching and damage.

The camera on the Honor 6 Plus used two 8MP cameras to let you capture an image and then refocus the image after capture but this feature is dropped in the Honor 7. Instead, the Honor 7 uses a Sony IMX230 sensor to deliver 20MP resolution and all importantly, Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF). Huawei says PDAF on the Honor 7 can focus on an image in just 0.1 seconds and is happy to show the feature off by detailing the time taken to focus in the viewfinder.

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The Honor 7 camera also comes with a range of camera features that debuted on the Huawei P8, include the Good Food, TimeLapse and light painting modes but Huawei has added to these in the Honor 7. The additions include a new demist filter to remove smog or fog from photos, a star tracking mode to capture the night sky and two additions to the light painting mode in the form of silky water and taillight tracking.

To the front and both devices come with 8MP selfie cameras equipped with Huawei’s Beauty Mode feature. The Honor 7 takes it one step further with the addition of two other features. First, a new selfie light aims to let you take selfies in different lighting conditions and second, a new Perfect Selfie mode lets you pre-program your face and the Honor 7 will then replace your face with the pre-programmed image whenever you take a group selfie.

Honor 7 camera samples

There’s no denying that on paper, the Honor 7 camera is certainly impressive especially when you consider it an affordable smartphone and while it’s certainly not perfect, it delivers much better photos than the Honor 6 Plus.

Software

A key issue that many users have with Huawei devices is in the company’s Emotion UI interface, which is also known as EMUI and can sometimes feel like an incomplete experience. Just like the Huawei P8, the Honor 7 runs the latest EMUI v3.1 on top of Android 5.0 Lollipop while the Honor 6 Plus is still running the older Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS.

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As identified in our Huawei P8 review, there’s several elements that don’t quite make sense in EMUI v3.1 including a notification menu that duplicates notifications and a colour scheme that can make notifications difficult to read. Sadly, these also make their way to the Honor 7 but while Huawei hasn’t fixed all the little elements, it has added some interesting new features.

The knuckle screenshot – which is absolutely atrocious on the Huawei P8 – has been improved so you can now double tap with your knuckle to take a screenshot and can completely turn off the feature in the settings.

EMUI also now comes with a Fast screenshot setting that lets you double press the volume down button to launch the camera and coupled with phase detection autofocus, it should mean you won’t miss many shots.

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There’s also a hidden apps drawer, which lets you get rid of some of the icons on the homescreen by putting them in a hidden menu that can be accessed by pinching out. A good use case for this would be if you wanted to separate your work apps from your personal apps as you could hide the work apps and not need to see them once you leave the office.

Sadly, Emotion UI still doesn’t come with an app drawer which most users will find quite jarring and while we’ve asked Huawei to introduce the feature via an option in the settings, it’s unlikely we’ll see it anytime soon. The beauty of Android is that you can change the launcher very easily and this should make the experience more enjoyable if you don’t like EMUI. Having tested Nova Launcher on the Honor 7, I can safely say that it runs smoothly and improves the experience somewhat.

One of my favourite features on the Honor 7 aims to solve the infrequent yet common problem of losing your phone. With the Honor 7 you can now say a customisable voice command when you can’t find the handset and it will respond with a rather cheesy but cute response. The feature works rather well and although it can take a few attempts to set it up, it generally has no issues recognising the wake-up command.

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Emotion UI has certainly come a long way since past Huawei devices and while it’s not perfect, I find it somewhat manageable (although many others do not). It’s worth noting however that – at least in my personal opinion – the software experience should not deter you from the Honor 7, which is otherwise an excellent smartphone.

Wrap up

There’s no denying that Huawei’s Honor brand has made somewhat of a splash on the market by offering a premium experience at an affordable price and the Honor 7 is certainly no different. The key thing however is that with the Honor 7, Huawei has made less trade-offs and offers both a premium build and a premium experience at an incredibly affordable price tag.

The Honor 7 is launching in the UK today for just £249.99, which when you consider the specs, is an absolutely fabulous price. In comparison, the Honor 6 Plus costs a tad more at £299.99 and given the choice, I know which one of the two I would rather have.

What do you think of the Honor 7 and the changes made by Huawei since the Honor 6 Plus? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, don’t forget to check out our full Honor 7 review, hit subscribe and stay tuned to Android Authority.com because we are, your source, for all things Android. See you next time!

27
Aug

Huawei Honor 7 review


Buy now on Amazon

Huawei, like quite a few other Chinese OEMs, is well known for bringing to market smartphones with impressive specifications and features, while keeping it budget-friendly, which is a key aspect of Huawei’s relatively new Honor series of smartphones. Honor 7, the latest addition to the Honor line retains everything that was great about its predecessors, but in a more refined package. Does this device manage to stand out in this highly-competitive segment? We find out, in this in-depth review of the Huawei Honor 7!

Design

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While the Huawei Honor 7, with its angular look, features a very similar design language to its predecessors, there is a departure as far as build material is concerned, from a mostly glass construction to a unibody metallic design. The metal backing comes with a ceramic-coated finish, which not only allows for a great feel in the hand, but also slightly helps counter the slipperiness of the metal. With a thickness of 8.5 mm and weighing just below 160 grams, the device also feels very solid and substantial in the hand, and the use of metal certainly makes it feel more durable than its predecessors. With its 5.2-inch display and thin bezels along the sides, the Honor 7 allows for easy one-handed use and makes for a very comfortable handling experience.

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Looking around the device, the volume rocker and the power button are found on the right side of the device, while there is a SmartKey button to the right (more about it below), and all buttons are very responsive, easy to press, and offer a good amount of tactile feedback. The power button is placed within comfortable reach, and comes with a slightly textured surface that makes it easy to distinguish between the power button and the volume rocker. The device also comes with a double tap to wake feature, so you won’t have to reach for the power button too often though. Above the SmartKey button is the dual-SIM card tray, with one of the SIM slots also doubling as a microSD card slot.

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Up top is the headphone jack and the IR blaster, and at the bottom is the microUSB port, flanked by two grills, giving the appearance of a dual speaker setup, even though it is actually only a single speaker on the left side. Above the display is a speaker grill which also houses a notification LED, and there is also an 8 MP front-facing camera with a flash. On the back is the 20 MP camera sensor, coupled with a dual tone LED flash, with the setup looking quite similar to what is seen with the HTC One M9, and there is also a fingerprint sensor below the camera.

Display

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The Huawei Honor 7 comes with a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, resulting in a pixel density of 424 ppi. Huawei claims that this display features a 1500:1 high contrast ratio and an 85% color saturation rate, making for crisp and clear text and vibrant colors. Viewing angles are good, and it also gets very bright, allowing for comfortable outdoor visibility. While Quad HD is all the rage, the Full HD resolution with this size is more than enough, and no one will have any complaints with regards to the viewing experience.

Performance

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Under the hood, the Huawei Honor 7 packs an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 935 processor, clocked at 2.2 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T628 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. Performance is as smooth as expected from this Huawei-made processing package, and very rarely will there be any signs of stutter or lag. Moving through the various elements of the UI is smooth, and opening, closing, and switching between applications is also fast and snappy. The device also handles gaming pretty well, save for the most graphically-intensive games, where you will notice dropped frames and slow load times. While the device gets the job done for the most part, if you’re looking for a fantastic gaming experience, this may not be the phone for you.

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Hardware

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The Honor 7 comes with 16 GB or 64 GB of internal storage, and this can be expanded by another 128 GB via microSD card. Keep in mind though that the second SIM slot also functions as the microSD card slot, so you’ll have to make a choice between expandable storage or dual-SIM capabilities. The device comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, as well as NFC, and while it does feature 4G LTE support, it will be a good idea to check for compatibility with your local network carrier first.

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As mentioned, there is a fingerprint scanner on the back, placed within easy reach of your index finger. This touch-type finger scanner is definitely one of the fastest I’ve used, and found it to be faster than the Samsung Galaxy S6 scanner. The scanner is also very accurate and rarely failed to read the fingerprint. Its placement on the back means that you won’t be able to easily unlock the phone while it’s kept on a table however, and users will have to depend on a PIN unlock in this case.

This sensor is not just a fingerprint scanner either, but also supports swipe gestures. A swipe down pulls down the notification panel, a swipe up opens up the recent apps screen, and a tap makes it function like a back button. These gestures are very handy to use, and I found myself relying on them when using the phone. Granted, since it lies within reach of the index finger, the opportunity for an accidental tap or swipe does arise, but the gestures were useful enough to make it worth learning to rest your index finger at a slightly different position. Of course, you can disable these gestures if accidental touches become a significant issue.

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Another great addition with the Honor 7 is the SmartKey button found on the left side, with functionality similar to what is available with the Active button of the Galaxy S6 Active. You can set up this button to launch up to three different applications or commands, requiring either a single click, a double click, or a long press of the button. This proved to be incredibly useful, and as we expressed during the full review of the Galaxy S6 Active, we hope that this feature makes its way over to more and more upcoming smartphones.

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While the microUSB port at the bottom is flanked by two speaker grills, this is only for aesthetic purposes, as the left side is the one that houses a single speaker unit. While this placement is better than if the speaker was on the back, the quality of the speaker itself is unfortunately below average. It doesn’t get loud enough to be heard even in slightly noisy environments, the audio sounds a bit muffled, and it is also very easy to cover up the speaker when holding the device in the landscape orientation.

As far as the battery is concerned, the Honor 7 packs a non-removable 3,100 mAh unit, that allows for excellent battery life, with up to five and a half hours of screen on-time during a typical day that involved watching videos, lots of internet browsing, responding to messages, and taking pictures. If you do run out of battery, you can take advantage of the device’s fast charging capabilities, with the device being charged to 50% in just 30 minutes.

Camera

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The Huawei Honor 7 comes with a 20 MP rear camera with a dual LED flash and an f/2.0 aperture, along with a front-facing 8 MP unit, with an f/2.4 aperture. As far as the camera application is concerned, there are some nice features available to enhance the shots you can take like super night mode, panorama, slow motion, a food mode to make pictures of food look more appetizing, and more. The camera is also capable of light painting, so you can leave the camera on a tripod for a few seconds to let it capture all the light, resulting in some creative shots. It is also very easy to take a picture, with a long press of the volume down button enough to quickly launch the camera and take a shot.

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As far as image quality is concerned, the camera is capable of taking some really good shots with a good amount of detail and saturated colors. That is mostly in well-lit environments however, and as the lighting conditions deteriorate, some amount of grain starts to show up, detail is lost, and colors begin to lack vibrancy. This is true for most smartphone cameras however, and low-light shots with this device are actually quite good. Video quality is unfortunately disappointing, with poor dynamic range and the tendency to overexpose, resulting in you having to continuously tap on the viewfinder to adjust the exposure and focus.

When it comes to the 8 MP front-facing camera with a wide angle lens, it is coupled with a flash, which is more of a dimly lit flashlight, but can be good to let a little bit of light into the shot. The quality of shots possible with the front camera is also impressive, with nice colors and lots of detail, but as expected, some graininess is seen in poorly-lit environments. With features like beauty mode to take advantage of, the selfie lover will not be disappointed by the quality of the this front-facing camera.

Software

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The Honor 7 is running Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with the latest version of Huawei’s Emotion UI on top, but you will be hard-pressed to find any Material Design elements in this user interface. In fact, the influence of iOS in this UI is obvious, starting from the lack of an app drawer, leaving users dependent on folders to keep things organized, to the blurred background effect when opening a folder, as well as the ability to pull up a control center of sorts with a swipe up from the bottom, which houses shortcuts to apps like the flashlight and camera.

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There are some useful shortcuts and features available that make navigating around the UI much quicker, including the swipe gestures using the fingerprint scanner, the ability to take a screenshot with a double tap of your knuckles on the screen, and the ability to draw out areas to crop. You can also play around with the on-screen navigation keys, by switching the back and recent apps keys or by adding a fourth button for bringing down the notification panel.

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The notification panel is chopped up into sections – Shortcuts and Notifications. Although it would have been nice to have these two sections combined, the notifications section is quite nice with a little timeline on the left side keeping your notifications very organized. There is also a theme engine available to change the look and feel of the UI to better suit your liking. While Huawei’s take on Android is certainly different from the traditional software experience and can take some getting used to, it is very sleek and is designed very well.

Specifications

Display 5.2-inch IPS LCD
Full HD, 424 ppi
Processor 2.2 GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 935 processor
Mali-T628 GPU
RAM 3 GB
Storage 16/64 GB
expandable up to 128GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0
GPS+GLONASS
NFC
IR blaster
USB 2.0
Camera 20 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
8 MP front camera with flash
Software Emotion UI 3.1, Android 5.0 Lollipop
Battery 3,100mAh, non-removable
Dimensions 143.2 x 71.9 x 8.5 mm
157 grams

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Pricing and final thoughts

The Huawei Honor 7 is priced at $400 in markets where it is officially available for the 64 GB iteration, and can be found on Amazon with a price point of close to $500, with color options including silver and black.

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So there you have it for this in-depth look at the Huawei Honor 7! Overall, the Honor 7 is a really good phone, with its beautiful display, impressive battery life, a fantastic fingerprint scanner, and good camera. Performance is smooth and snappy for the most part, save for the most graphically-intensive of games, and while the Huawei’s take on Android can take some getting used to, the slew of shortcuts and gestures available enable a good experience. There are some really good options available out there in this price range though, such as the top version of the ASUS Zenfone 2, the Axon Phone by ZTE, and the Moto X Play, which you might want to consider instead.

Buy now on Amazon

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