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Posts tagged ‘Reviews’

14
Feb

Yatzy Ultimate


Overview

Developer: Seavus Group

Price: Free (Ad-Supported, $1.99 to remove ads; micro-transactions)

Highlights:

  • Real-time competition with players around the world.
  • Credit-based betting system.
  • Offline mode.
  • Three variations of the classic dice game to play.

Setup

Yatzy Ultimate has a relatively simple, if slightly counter-intuitive, setup. It does not support Google Account login (hence counter-intuitive) or Google Play, but it allows you to create and account with either Facebook or Game.IO. If you don’t feel like creating yet another game account, you can always play as a guest, and you will retain your credits persistently. There is also a handy tutorial/training mode right at the homescreen, if you don’t feel like using your credits right away.

Features

Having played Yahtzee extensively with my mother as a child, this app triggered a giant tsunami wave of nostalgia. It plays exactly as I remember, minus the pen-and-paper scoring and the irreplaceable feel of pouring the dice out of the shaker. If you haven’t played Yatzy, this app probably isn’t for you. If you’re curious about the rules, this is probably a good page with which to start. Yatzy Ultimate offers three different variations of the game to play: Yatzy, Maxi-Yazty, and American Yatzy.  The variations offer different rules and scoring, though, they all essentially play the same way.


Classic.

Classic.

Yatzy is relatively generous with their credits, starting you out with 5000 right off the bat. You’re able to bet as many as 750 credits and as few as 100 per game in the basic single-player stage, and you can buy additional credits via in-app purchases ($0.99 for 2,000, and up to $19.99 for 500,000). In addition to changing how much you can bet each round, you are also able to increase the score threshold you need to reach in order to win; thereby increasing the payout if you reach it.


Seven different boards to play on.

Seven different boards to play on.


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There are currently seven different stages of betting, each one requiring significantly more than the last to qualify to enter. I am fundamentally wary of a game relies on random number generation (RNG), for a number of reasons:

1) No number is every truly random.

2) As such, the game could theoretically alter your results, and

3) therefore directly alter your ability to earn credits.


The betting system.

The betting system.

Those things being stated, I feel that Yatzy Ultimate does a good job of making sure that your results feel fair, and not like you’re being robbed of your credits. Sound and visual design are okay, not phenomenal. The graphics look a little grainy on my Nexus 6P, which is a simple enough fix that I hope is remedied soon.

What I like

  • Classic dice game.
  • Decent production value.
  • Fair-enough RNG.

What I don’t

  • Ad-supported AND micro-transactions.
  • Graphics get a bit grainy on higher resolution screens.

Conclusion

Yatzy Ultimate is a perfectly acceptable recreation of the classic dice game. To me the game will always be known as Yahtzee, but the spirit of the game is captured well, and is actually easier than playing the physical game due to built-in scoring and dice rolling. The game is free and you never need to purchase micro-transactions to advance, though the ads occasionally grate nerves.

Google Play Store –  Yatzy Ultimate

The post Yatzy Ultimate appeared first on AndroidGuys.

13
Feb

Duplicate Files Fixer review: automatically detect and remove duplicate items to save space.


Does your device run out of storage, forcing you to painstakingly go through your phone and delete your contents ? Too busy or just too tired to go through your contents? Worry no more! Duplicate Files Fixer(free), available and rated 4.5 stars on the Google Play Store, does all this for you.

Objective View

Entailing a simplistic and easy to use interface, this is a user-friendly application that can be operated DFF-2by anyone. Within the program, you are met by several options including Scan Audio, Scan Videos, Scan Pictures, Scan Documents and Full Scan.

Upon inspecting the miscellaneous categories, your device will scan each for the respective content and display a screen with all the duplicates. It then has all the duplicates selected and gives you the ability to unmark the duplicates you intend on keeping. After pressing the delete button, you are asked to confirm your decision in the event of you making an error.

Although the purpose of this application is to optimize your tech by cleaning duplicate files, it does not include the option to delete the original file. Sometimes when choosing what to clean, you may come across files you have no intention of keeping and want to delete it as well as the duplicate, but alas, you can only remove the duplicate and have to locate the original afterwards. Perhaps developers would take a look into that matter.

 

 Summary

I used this application for a mere few hours and found that it is an absolute blessing. I was able to delete approximately 800 megabytes of duplicate files alone, including pictures, voice notes, music tracks and documents. It’s a really simple program and has only one screen excluding DFF-3the help menu which includes a basic tutorial of pictures. Despite the few flaws and improvements which could be made, Duplicate Files Fixer was definitely well thought out and has a smooth and polished UI.

In conclusion, this simple program is definitely worth downloading, and it will most definitely help you clean up your device and free some space for your more important information, but more so, it will help save your time.

Google Play Store – Duplicate File Fixer

 

The post Duplicate Files Fixer review: automatically detect and remove duplicate items to save space. appeared first on AndroidGuys.

13
Feb

Five for Friday: Apps to get your sports fix


The world of professional sports has become the linchpin in many lives around the world. From the “Big 5” – American Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, Football – to the more obscure Golf, Lacrosse, NASCAR, and others, sports are everywhere. We all have our individual preference when it comes to the industry – I, personally, am a huge NBA fan – but one thing binds us all in sports fandom; the need to keep up with it all.

Some of us are one-team guys (Go Kings). Some of us follow anything within our geographical location – which, if you live in the San Francisco Bay, for instance, can get pretty wild; between the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland As, the Oakland Raiders, the San Fransisco 49ers, the Golden State Warriors and the San Jose Sharks, you’re looking at following six teams just in the primary four sports in the U.S. Some of us follow teams that represent where we come from. Perhaps you moved as a child, and you root rabidly for the team the plays in the area from whence you came.

But I digress; we all need a way to keep track of all these sports, and let’s face it; the newspaper doesn’t cut it anymore. So, without further delay, I present the top 5 apps for tracking all your favorite sports teams;

the Score

  • Plenty of sports to choose from, including some of the more obscure leagues like Lacrosse and Canadian Football League.
  • Statistics screen only provides basic stats for each player, nothing in depth.
  • Play-by-Play screen for each game.
  • Configurable homescreen widget.

CBS Sports

  • Fantasy scoring and management.
  • TV/Radio schedule (input your TV provider for a custom schedule).
  • Score overview for the day.
  • Ad-Supported
  • Large database of sports from which to choose.
  • Optional CBS Sports sign-in.

ESPN

  • Ad-Supported
  • Disappointingly limited selection of sports.
  • Video Highlights
  • ESPN Streaming built into the app.

Yahoo Sports

  • Yahoo Fantasy management and scoring.
  • Database of sports competitive with CBS Sports and MSN Sports.
  • Limited stats page.
  • Ad-Supported
  • Dedicated “Tweets” page for each game.

MSN Sports

  • Massive sports database – the biggest on this list.
  • Windows 10 UI (which, on Android, is rather startling)
  • Limited app options.
  • Very, very limited statistics.

Disagree with any of the selections you see here? Think we missed one? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

The post Five for Friday: Apps to get your sports fix appeared first on AndroidGuys.

12
Feb

Asus ZenFone Zoom review: Clearing up the view ahead


Premium build, 4GB of RAM, 3x optical zoom, and $399 price tag – is this the smartphone to beat?

Asus has been trying to crack the market’s smartphone code for a while now. Prior to its current lineup, the company tried again and again to get consumers on-board with an unconventional but innovative smartphone/tablet integration concept with the PadFone. Alas, the Taiwanese manufacturer finally gave in to the lackluster sales and redirected its smartphone efforts to the ZenFone.

2015 was a good year for Asus; when the ZenFone 2 managed to catch the market’s attention with its newfound value. It packed bangin’ specs for the competitive price. Asus phones were finally selling. But while the company later used this success as an opportunity to introduce ZenFone 2 variants, one of its offering quietly slipped out of view – the ZenFone Zoom.

ZenFone_Zoom_2

First announced at CES 2015, Asus boasted a smartphone with a camera that could optically zoom. In hindsight, it seems like that project was a bit too ambitious for the manufacturer, as it’s taken a whole year of extra development to finally get it into our hands.

Is the ZenFone Zoom better late than never, or should it have remained as a concept? Let’s find out.

Design

If you recall the ZenFone Zoom’s CES 2015 announcement, you may notice that the back cover is slightly different to the production unit. The former had a smooth plastic cover while the latter looks leathery. Due to the Zoom’s aggressive pricing, I suspected that we would actually be dealing with faux leather.

ZenFone_Zoom_15

When I got a hold of the review unit, I was convinced that my assumption was correct. The entire back cover feels like a leather-textured hard plastic. However, Asus states that it is in fact a “premium”, burnished leather. Because the material doesn’t quite feel the part, I’m left ambivalent about the effort.

Nonetheless, the texture and rounded back feels great in hand. Yes, the phone is in no way trying to be slim, but it’s not a brick either. OEM obsession over phone thinness is overrated in my book (especially when it’s traded for features), and the Zoom’s extra girth is no way impugns phone ergonomics.

Thickness comparison between the LG V10 (left) and ZenFone Zoom (right)

Thickness comparison between the LG V10 (left) and ZenFone Zoom (right)

 

We can’t talk about the back of the phone without addressing the elephant in the room – that large circular camera housing. I’m not quite sure why the camera component has to take up so much space, but I won’t question the engineering magic that Asus had to pull off to gain 3x zooming from a lens that doesn’t telescope (more on the camera details later). I do appreciate that the odd module is just about the same thickness as the thickest portions of the phone. It doesn’t have that disruptive appearance that previous optically zooming smartphones have beared (i.e. Samsung’s Galaxy Zoom series)

The camera lens is recessed, so you don’t have to worry about the protective glass getting scratched and ruining your pictures. However, on a usability note, the len’s placement on the back isn’t conventional (it’s lower than on most phones). I find myself often touching it with my index finger, then having to swipe off the fingerprint smudge before taking pics.

ZenFone_Zoom_9

Because the curved back tapers on the sides, towards the bottom you’ll see a raised lining for stability (it keeps the phone from wobbling when set on a table). Subtle leather stitching surrounds the protrusion, for that convincing look. Right below it is a rear-facing, mono external speaker.

Oh, and that back cover is removeable. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you’ll have access to the battery (it’s barricaded in), but you will get a micro-SD slot. This is where the SIM slot lives as well.

ZenFone_Zoom_3

Before receiving the Zoom, I wasn’t aware that Asus had now evolved the ZenFone’s build with a metal frame. It’s excellent and as premium as they come. It’s rounded, similar to the iPhone, and feels great in-hand. The finish is smooth and matte, the color has an interesting deep purple-ish tone. The metal is chamfered on both edges of the frame to show off its shine. The whole presentation says classy and complements the leathery backing well.

ZenFone_Zoom_10

Regarding ports, you’ll find the headphone jack on the top and micro-USB port on the bottom. And because the Zoom is camera-centric, Asus included a lanyard opening on the bottom-left corner, for safety from drops during all those photo shoots.

ZenFone_Zoom_20
ZenFone_Zoom_6

The physical buttons are all on the right side (there’s nothing on the left side). Asus not only fitted a camera shutter button but also a record button adjacent to it. Holding down on either button launches the camera app whether the phone is off or on. Cleverly, the volume buttons double up for zooming when you’re in the camera app. They even have “T” (Telephoto) and “W” (Wide Angle) labels etched on them, like on a dedicated camera.

ZenFone_Zoom_17

The front of the phone keeps traditional ZenFone fashion. There’s an Asus logo squeezed in between the earpiece and display, capacitive buttons, and the signature bezel plate along the bottom (which has a circular texture that produces a light ray effect from the center of the pattern). The Zoom’s bezel size is fairly average; it’s not the best screen-to-body ratio. It is just about as tall as the LG V10, which isn’t a good thing. The V10 has a 0.2″ larger display and a secondary screen on top of that.

ZenFone_Zoom_5
ZenFone_Zoom_12

But I suppose that when you factor in the $399 price and optical zoom, it can be forgivable.

Performance

ZenFone_Zoom_19

Asus continues its partnership with Intel on the ZenFone Zoom. It packs an Intel Atom Z3580, which is comprised of a quad-core processor (running at 2.3GHz), PowerVR G6430 graphics processor, and 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM. Yes, you heard correctly – 4GB in a $399 smartphone.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-40-06But do those specs mean as much as they sound like they mean in the real world? Mostly. The Zoom is a speedy animal. Even despite the heavy ZenUI, it still manages to chug through Android without hesitation.

However, there were moments that frame rate drops were noticeable. I’m not talking about lags or delays, but rather, the fluidity was interrupted at times. In digging around, I noticed that ZenUI’s default “Normal” power management system says that it “Smartly adjusts CPU performance and brightness”. You can switch it to the “Performance” mode, in which it will utilize the entire CPU’s capability (at the cost of battery life).

A great thing is that the standard internal storage capacity of the Zoom is 64GB. I wish that every OEM would follow suit. And what makes that even sweeter is that micro-SD expansion is supported. You can only add on 64GB more, but at least you can.

Audio performance on all front is nothing to write home about. The rear placement of the external speaker is not ideal, and it’s thin-sounding. And there is nothing special to my ears from the audio out of the headphone jack.

Display

The ZenFone Zoom has a 5.5″ sized IPS LCD screen. Its resolution isn’t saturated with the QHD pixel count that many flagships boast these days, but 1080P is sufficient (403 PPI). I don’t find the difference between QHD and 1080P on a 5.5″ display that telling anyways, and would much rather not waste the extra battery life on something that frivolous.

ZenFone_Zoom_8

The panel’s quality is above average. It particularly excels at keeping its composure at even extreme viewing angles. Colors look a tad dull to my eyes, but that’s just me being nit-picky.

The brightness does leave to be desired though. I feel like the max brightness should be able to go an extra 20-30% further (based on my experience with other phones). This mostly becomes a concern outside on a sunny day. But in digging around, I did find out that you can gain more brightness from within the Battery settings. Putting the phone in “Performance” mode increases the max brightness slightly (we’ll talk about this more in the Battery section).

Camera

ZenFone_Zoom_21

Now the moment you’ve probably been waiting for – the ZenFone Zoom’s camera performance. Asus boasts a lot of technological achievement about the Zoom’s sensor on paper, but all that awesomeness deliver in real world use? We’ll get to that.

Firstly, something to know about the Zoom’s optics is that the lens doesn’t telescope like with traditional optical zooming. I didn’t know that upon receiving the phone. So when I opened her up and stared at the lens while zooming, you can probably guess the look on my face.

asus_camera_zoom

Asus says that the 3x optical magnification is achieved by some 10-element HOYA periscopic lens arrangement trickery. You can get more details about the technology (which Asus dubs PixelMaster 2.0) on the manufacturer’s site.


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The sensor itself has a 13MP capture resolution. It is also supplemented by 4 stops of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and an ultra-fast (0.03 seconds) laser auto-focus. The len’s f/2.7 aperture isn’t particularly great (compared to significantly larger sizes from the latest flagships), but Asus tries to assist the low-light performance from the software side with a Low Light shooting mode.

Without further ado, let’s get into the photo samples. Click on the collection below to see zoomed in (3x) and out samples.

ZenFone_Zoom_Collection

The optical zoom does work, and the camera quality is maintained when zoomed. Check out this comparison with the LG V10, both zoomed at 3x (but the V10 can only do digital zoom).

LG V10, 3x zoom

LG V10, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom

To my eyes, the Zoom’s camera performs fantastically in good lighting. But the results can take a dubious turn otherwise. Areas of concentrated lighting can too easily be overexposed.

P_20160207_141336
P_20160209_110746

HDR helps to a point (mostly to even out the overall contrast), but the blown-out areas will still be there. On the other extreme, there is an expected struggle when light is taken away. But the camera doesn’t try to force it and give you grainy images, things are just less visible. Thankfully, there is a Low Light shooting mode in the camera interface, which produces decent results.

Auto shooting mode

Auto shooting mode

Low Light shooting mode

Low Light shooting mode

There’s no strings attached to the optical zoom’s use. It still works in special shooting modes, such as HDR and Low Light, as well as while recording. If you find that you need to zoom more than 3x, the len’s mechanism also allows it to go all the way to 12x (but via digital zooming).

Speaking of shooting modes, Asus makes sure the hardware is well supported on the software front. On the bottom-right corner of the camera interface is a shortcut to a barrage of modes.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-49-58

Some of these options are commonplace, but there’s a couple standout features. Super Resolution combines the detail from four simultaneous shots into a result that simulates 4x the capture resolution. Miniature mode gives the user finer tuning over the depth of field effect. Time Rewind takes simultaneous burst shots before and after the shutter button was tapped.

Battery

The ZenFone Zoom packs a modest 3,000 mAh capacity battery (non-removeable). It’s been sufficient in my use. I’ll go ahead to show you a battery usage graph, over a 9-hour period (the first half on T-Mobile’s network and the other half on WiFi).

Screenshot_2016-02-07-21-41-48
Screenshot_2016-02-07-21-41-55

50% battery drain over 9 hours is fine in my book. My usage covered a lot of use cases, such as internet browsing, music, maps/navigation, social media, and camera (screen brightness varied between max and 75%). But I didn’t play any games.

Do be aware that ZenUI packs battery modes that can largely determine what your battery life outcome will be. By default, the system is set to “Normal” (this is the mode that I used for the results above). It’s nice that Asus gives the user choices. Most UI’s have some form of Power Saving settings, but ZenUI actually lets you maximize performance if you want to (at the cost of battery life of course).

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-40-25
Screenshot_2016-02-10-21-49-13
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-40-33

There are two tiers of power saving modes: “Power saving” and “Super saving”. The former disables networks when the phone is on standby, while the latter only keeps the basic phone functions going (calling, texting, alarm). Or you can select “Customized” and pick and choose the system behavior yourself, such as CPU performance, screen brightness, and network and app activity. Lastly, “Smart switch” allows automatic battery mode switching based on either a certain battery percentage or user-specified schedule.

Software

The ZenFone Zoom runs off of Android 5.0 (Lollipop). Sadly, it’s not the latest version of Android and not even Android 5.1 (which was a crucial update in Lollipop). ZenUI is the user interface (UI) overlay and is no doubt as heavy as they come. But I will admit that after some time with the UI, I’ve started to open up to it. I don’t find that performance is hindered by ZenUI (which gives me confidence over Asus’s software competence), and I’ve discovered several useful functions that aren’t on other UI’s.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-28-16
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-28-25
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-28-33

But I will always complain about unnecessary changes to Android’s aesthetics; it’s a waste of effort when changes don’t add any value. Things like the notification shade, app drawer, folder layout, and panel transitions all get a ZenUI fix. In fact, there’s no trace of true Android that I can spot.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-41-19
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-38-15
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-38-40

Adding more insult to injury, Asus throws in a ton of home-brewed apps that get in your face. At the phone’s first startup, you get a barrage of notifications from these apps to let you know that they’re present (and they pop up again over time). The Asus apps range from system management (data cleaner, power settings) to media features/tools. Fortunately, if you’re like me and don’t care, the system allows you to disable the apps (but not uninstall).

But ZenUI does redeem itself through a couple ways. One of these is gestures (which stock Android has yet to implement).

Screenshot_2016-02-11-13-39-42
Screenshot_2016-02-11-13-34-03
Screenshot_2016-02-11-13-34-08

There are two categories of gestures: Motion and Touch. There’s only a couple of motion gestures; shaking the phone to take a screenshot or bringing the phone to your ear to pick up a phone call. The touch gestures are far more interesting. Firstly, tap-to-wake is present (thank you, Asus!). What’s also cool is that you can draw a letter on the screen when it is off to launch one of the specified apps.

One other neat action is when you swipe up from the home screen. A “Manage Home” area pop ups, which contains various functions you may often use. You’ll also run into other nice useful features throughout the UI. For instance, you can set a tap and hold on Recent Apps button to take a screenshot or open up an app’s menu. The display’s coloring is alterable via presets or user customization. And there’s a useful “Auto-start Manager”, where you can save system memory by controlling which apps are allowed to run automatically.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-41-43
Screenshot_2016-02-11-14-07-10
Screenshot_2016-02-11-15-18-12

Theming is something that I think every UI should be able to do. ZenUI has a “Themes” app with a vast library of free and paid options. This includes a library of icon packs and third-party support to grab a pack from the Play Store.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-42-01
Screenshot_2016-02-11-15-28-28

Final Thoughts

ZenFone_Zoom_7

When I reflect on everything that the ZenFone Zoom offers and then recall its asking price of $399, I can’t help but think that the value is great. I could most definitely replace my daily driver flagship phone (which costs almost twice as much) and not regret it. That’s where the ZenFone line has the upper-hand, and the 3x optical zoom is icing that you won’t get on most cakes out there.

As long as your expectations aren’t sky-high, the ZenFone Zoom is definitely recommendable. I just emphasize that the camera’s general performance is good but not the best you’ll find, and that ZenUI may be too heavy for Android enthusiasts (although, it functions just fine).

We’d like to give a shout-out to B&H Photo for supplying our ZenFone Zoom review unit!

Asus ZenFone Zoom product page

The post Asus ZenFone Zoom review: Clearing up the view ahead appeared first on AndroidGuys.

12
Feb

Asus ZenFone Zoom review: Clearing up the view ahead


Premium build, 4GB of RAM, 3x optical zoom, and $399 price tag – is this the smartphone to beat?

Asus has been trying to crack the market’s smartphone code for a while now. Prior to its current lineup, the company tried again and again to get consumers on-board with an unconventional but innovative smartphone/tablet integration concept with the PadFone. Alas, the Taiwanese manufacturer finally gave in to the lackluster sales and redirected its smartphone efforts to the ZenFone.

2015 was a good year for Asus; when the ZenFone 2 managed to catch the market’s attention with its newfound value. It packed bangin’ specs for the competitive price. Asus phones were finally selling. But while the company later used this success as an opportunity to introduce ZenFone 2 variants, one of its offering quietly slipped out of view – the ZenFone Zoom.

ZenFone_Zoom_2

First announced at CES 2015, Asus boasted a smartphone with a camera that could optically zoom. In hindsight, it seems like that project was a bit too ambitious for the manufacturer, as it’s taken a whole year of extra development to finally get it into our hands.

Is the ZenFone Zoom better late than never, or should it have remained as a concept? Let’s find out.

Design

If you recall the ZenFone Zoom’s CES 2015 announcement, you may notice that the back cover is slightly different to the production unit. The former had a smooth plastic cover while the latter looks leathery. Due to the Zoom’s aggressive pricing, I suspected that we would actually be dealing with faux leather.

ZenFone_Zoom_15

When I got a hold of the review unit, I was convinced that my assumption was correct. The entire back cover feels like a leather-textured hard plastic. However, Asus states that it is in fact a “premium”, burnished leather. Because the material doesn’t quite feel the part, I’m left ambivalent about the effort.

Nonetheless, the texture and rounded back feels great in hand. Yes, the phone is in no way trying to be slim, but it’s not a brick either. OEM obsession over phone thinness is overrated in my book (especially when it’s traded for features), and the Zoom’s extra girth is no way impugns phone ergonomics.

Thickness comparison between the LG V10 (left) and ZenFone Zoom (right)

Thickness comparison between the LG V10 (left) and ZenFone Zoom (right)

 

We can’t talk about the back of the phone without addressing the elephant in the room – that large circular camera housing. I’m not quite sure why the camera component has to take up so much space, but I won’t question the engineering magic that Asus had to pull off to gain 3x zooming from a lens that doesn’t telescope (more on the camera details later). I do appreciate that the odd module is just about the same thickness as the thickest portions of the phone. It doesn’t have that disruptive appearance that previous optically zooming smartphones have beared (i.e. Samsung’s Galaxy Zoom series)

The camera lens is recessed, so you don’t have to worry about the protective glass getting scratched and ruining your pictures. However, on a usability note, the len’s placement on the back isn’t conventional (it’s lower than on most phones). I find myself often touching it with my index finger, then having to swipe off the fingerprint smudge before taking pics.

ZenFone_Zoom_9

Because the curved back tapers on the sides, towards the bottom you’ll see a raised lining for stability (it keeps the phone from wobbling when set on a table). Subtle leather stitching surrounds the protrusion, for that convincing look. Right below it is a rear-facing, mono external speaker.

Oh, and that back cover is removeable. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you’ll have access to the battery (it’s barricaded in), but you will get a micro-SD slot. This is where the SIM slot lives as well.

ZenFone_Zoom_3

Before receiving the Zoom, I wasn’t aware that Asus had now evolved the ZenFone’s build with a metal frame. It’s excellent and as premium as they come. It’s rounded, similar to the iPhone, and feels great in-hand. The finish is smooth and matte, the color has an interesting deep purple-ish tone. The metal is chamfered on both edges of the frame to show off its shine. The whole presentation says classy and complements the leathery backing well.

ZenFone_Zoom_10

Regarding ports, you’ll find the headphone jack on the top and micro-USB port on the bottom. And because the Zoom is camera-centric, Asus included a lanyard opening on the bottom-left corner, for safety from drops during all those photo shoots.

ZenFone_Zoom_20
ZenFone_Zoom_6

The physical buttons are all on the right side (there’s nothing on the left side). Asus not only fitted a camera shutter button but also a record button adjacent to it. Holding down on either button launches the camera app whether the phone is off or on. Cleverly, the volume buttons double up for zooming when you’re in the camera app. They even have “T” (Telephoto) and “W” (Wide Angle) labels etched on them, like on a dedicated camera.

ZenFone_Zoom_17

The front of the phone keeps traditional ZenFone fashion. There’s an Asus logo squeezed in between the earpiece and display, capacitive buttons, and the signature bezel plate along the bottom (which has a circular texture that produces a light ray effect from the center of the pattern). The Zoom’s bezel size is fairly average; it’s not the best screen-to-body ratio. It is just about as tall as the LG V10, which isn’t a good thing. The V10 has a 0.2″ larger display and a secondary screen on top of that.

ZenFone_Zoom_5
ZenFone_Zoom_12

But I suppose that when you factor in the $399 price and optical zoom, it can be forgivable.

Performance

ZenFone_Zoom_19

Asus continues its partnership with Intel on the ZenFone Zoom. It packs an Intel Atom Z3580, which is comprised of a quad-core processor (running at 2.3GHz), PowerVR G6430 graphics processor, and 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM. Yes, you heard correctly – 4GB in a $399 smartphone.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-40-06But do those specs mean as much as they sound like they mean in the real world? Mostly. The Zoom is a speedy animal. Even despite the heavy ZenUI, it still manages to chug through Android without hesitation.

However, there were moments that frame rate drops were noticeable. I’m not talking about lags or delays, but rather, the fluidity was interrupted at times. In digging around, I noticed that ZenUI’s default “Normal” power management system says that it “Smartly adjusts CPU performance and brightness”. You can switch it to the “Performance” mode, in which it will utilize the entire CPU’s capability (at the cost of battery life).

A great thing is that the standard internal storage capacity of the Zoom is 64GB. I wish that every OEM would follow suit. And what makes that even sweeter is that micro-SD expansion is supported. You can only add on 64GB more, but at least you can.

Audio performance on all front is nothing to write home about. The rear placement of the external speaker is not ideal, and it’s thin-sounding. And there is nothing special to my ears from the audio out of the headphone jack.

Display

The ZenFone Zoom has a 5.5″ sized IPS LCD screen. Its resolution isn’t saturated with the QHD pixel count that many flagships boast these days, but 1080P is sufficient (403 PPI). I don’t find the difference between QHD and 1080P on a 5.5″ display that telling anyways, and would much rather not waste the extra battery life on something that frivolous.

ZenFone_Zoom_8

The panel’s quality is above average. It particularly excels at keeping its composure at even extreme viewing angles. Colors look a tad dull to my eyes, but that’s just me being nit-picky.

The brightness does leave to be desired though. I feel like the max brightness should be able to go an extra 20-30% further (based on my experience with other phones). This mostly becomes a concern outside on a sunny day. But in digging around, I did find out that you can gain more brightness from within the Battery settings. Putting the phone in “Performance” mode increases the max brightness slightly (we’ll talk about this more in the Battery section).

Camera

ZenFone_Zoom_21

Now the moment you’ve probably been waiting for – the ZenFone Zoom’s camera performance. Asus boasts a lot of technological achievement about the Zoom’s sensor on paper, but all that awesomeness deliver in real world use? We’ll get to that.

Firstly, something to know about the Zoom’s optics is that the lens doesn’t telescope like with traditional optical zooming. I didn’t know that upon receiving the phone. So when I opened her up and stared at the lens while zooming, you can probably guess the look on my face.

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Asus says that the 3x optical magnification is achieved by some 10-element HOYA periscopic lens arrangement trickery. You can get more details about the technology (which Asus dubs PixelMaster 2.0) on the manufacturer’s site.


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The sensor itself has a 13MP capture resolution. It is also supplemented by 4 stops of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and an ultra-fast (0.03 seconds) laser auto-focus. The len’s f/2.7 aperture isn’t particularly great (compared to significantly larger sizes from the latest flagships), but Asus tries to assist the low-light performance from the software side with a Low Light shooting mode.

Without further ado, let’s get into the photo samples. Click on the collection below to see zoomed in (3x) and out samples.

ZenFone_Zoom_Collection

The optical zoom does work, and the camera quality is maintained when zoomed. Check out this comparison with the LG V10, both zoomed at 3x (but the V10 can only do digital zoom).

LG V10, 3x zoom

LG V10, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom

To my eyes, the Zoom’s camera performs fantastically in good lighting. But the results can take a dubious turn otherwise. Areas of concentrated lighting can too easily be overexposed.

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HDR helps to a point (mostly to even out the overall contrast), but the blown-out areas will still be there. On the other extreme, there is an expected struggle when light is taken away. But the camera doesn’t try to force it and give you grainy images, things are just less visible. Thankfully, there is a Low Light shooting mode in the camera interface, which produces decent results.

Auto shooting mode

Auto shooting mode

Low Light shooting mode

Low Light shooting mode

There’s no strings attached to the optical zoom’s use. It still works in special shooting modes, such as HDR and Low Light, as well as while recording. If you find that you need to zoom more than 3x, the len’s mechanism also allows it to go all the way to 12x (but via digital zooming).

Speaking of shooting modes, Asus makes sure the hardware is well supported on the software front. On the bottom-right corner of the camera interface is a shortcut to a barrage of modes.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-49-58

Some of these options are commonplace, but there’s a couple standout features. Super Resolution combines the detail from four simultaneous shots into a result that simulates 4x the capture resolution. Miniature mode gives the user finer tuning over the depth of field effect. Time Rewind takes simultaneous burst shots before and after the shutter button was tapped.

Battery

The ZenFone Zoom packs a modest 3,000 mAh capacity battery (non-removeable). It’s been sufficient in my use. I’ll go ahead to show you a battery usage graph, over a 9-hour period (the first half on T-Mobile’s network and the other half on WiFi).

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50% battery drain over 9 hours is fine in my book. My usage covered a lot of use cases, such as internet browsing, music, maps/navigation, social media, and camera (screen brightness varied between max and 75%). But I didn’t play any games.

Do be aware that ZenUI packs battery modes that can largely determine what your battery life outcome will be. By default, the system is set to “Normal” (this is the mode that I used for the results above). It’s nice that Asus gives the user choices. Most UI’s have some form of Power Saving settings, but ZenUI actually lets you maximize performance if you want to (at the cost of battery life of course).

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There are two tiers of power saving modes: “Power saving” and “Super saving”. The former disables networks when the phone is on standby, while the latter only keeps the basic phone functions going (calling, texting, alarm). Or you can select “Customized” and pick and choose the system behavior yourself, such as CPU performance, screen brightness, and network and app activity. Lastly, “Smart switch” allows automatic battery mode switching based on either a certain battery percentage or user-specified schedule.

Software

The ZenFone Zoom runs off of Android 5.0 (Lollipop). Sadly, it’s not the latest version of Android and not even Android 5.1 (which was a crucial update in Lollipop). ZenUI is the user interface (UI) overlay and is no doubt as heavy as they come. But I will admit that after some time with the UI, I’ve started to open up to it. I don’t find that performance is hindered by ZenUI (which gives me confidence over Asus’s software competence), and I’ve discovered several useful functions that aren’t on other UI’s.

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But I will always complain about unnecessary changes to Android’s aesthetics; it’s a waste of effort when changes don’t add any value. Things like the notification shade, app drawer, folder layout, and panel transitions all get a ZenUI fix. In fact, there’s no trace of true Android that I can spot.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-41-19
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Adding more insult to injury, Asus throws in a ton of home-brewed apps that get in your face. At the phone’s first startup, you get a barrage of notifications from these apps to let you know that they’re present (and they pop up again over time). The Asus apps range from system management (data cleaner, power settings) to media features/tools. Fortunately, if you’re like me and don’t care, the system allows you to disable the apps (but not uninstall).

But ZenUI does redeem itself through a couple ways. One of these is gestures (which stock Android has yet to implement).

Screenshot_2016-02-11-13-39-42
Screenshot_2016-02-11-13-34-03
Screenshot_2016-02-11-13-34-08

There are two categories of gestures: Motion and Touch. There’s only a couple of motion gestures; shaking the phone to take a screenshot or bringing the phone to your ear to pick up a phone call. The touch gestures are far more interesting. Firstly, tap-to-wake is present (thank you, Asus!). What’s also cool is that you can draw a letter on the screen when it is off to launch one of the specified apps.

One other neat action is when you swipe up from the home screen. A “Manage Home” area pop ups, which contains various functions you may often use. You’ll also run into other nice useful features throughout the UI. For instance, you can set a tap and hold on Recent Apps button to take a screenshot or open up an app’s menu. The display’s coloring is alterable via presets or user customization. And there’s a useful “Auto-start Manager”, where you can save system memory by controlling which apps are allowed to run automatically.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-41-43
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Theming is something that I think every UI should be able to do. ZenUI has a “Themes” app with a vast library of free and paid options. This includes a library of icon packs and third-party support to grab a pack from the Play Store.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-42-01
Screenshot_2016-02-11-15-28-28

Final Thoughts

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When I reflect on everything that the ZenFone Zoom offers and then recall its asking price of $399, I can’t help but think that the value is great. I could most definitely replace my daily driver flagship phone (which costs almost twice as much) and not regret it. That’s where the ZenFone line has the upper-hand, and the 3x optical zoom is icing that you won’t get on most cakes out there.

As long as your expectations aren’t sky-high, the ZenFone Zoom is definitely recommendable. I just emphasize that the camera’s general performance is good but not the best you’ll find, and that ZenUI may be too heavy for Android enthusiasts (although, it functions just fine).

We’d like to give a shout-out to B&H Photo for supplying our ZenFone Zoom review unit!

Asus ZenFone Zoom product page

The post Asus ZenFone Zoom review: Clearing up the view ahead appeared first on AndroidGuys.

11
Feb

Samsung Galaxy A9 review


Samsung refreshed their Galaxy A series at the end of last year, with the new smartphones in the series borrowing heavily from the design language and construction of Samsung’s 2015 flagships. Apart from the 2016 editions of the Galaxy A3, A5, and A7, Samsung also added a new device to the lineup, which is also the largest of the bunch, and at least on paper, falls squarely in the “premium mid-range” category that we’re all increasingly familiar with.

What does this latest large Samsung offering bring to the table? We find out, in this comprehensive Samsung Galaxy A9 review!

Design

GalaxyA9_12

Samsung has always had a penchant for bringing their flagship design language to the rest of their smartphone portfolio, so it’s not really surprising that the Galaxy A9 looks like an over-sized Galaxy S6, or a Galaxy Note 5, albeit without the curves on the back. What returns is the fantastic build quality, with two Corning Gorilla Glass 4 panels held together by a metal frame. A few elements do differentiate the Galaxy A9 from its flagship counterparts however; its corners are less rounded, resulting in a more angular look; meanwhile, flagship features like the S-Pen and the heart rate monitor aren’t to be found here.

GalaxyA9_10

Featuring a large 6-inch display, the handling experience is admittedly quite unwieldy, and while Samsung has done a great job in keeping the top part and the bottom chin relatively thin, one-handed use is quite literally a stretch. Some users will find hand gymnastics to be required to get across and to the top of the display, but with a somewhat slippery glass backing, using this phone with two hands will be your safest bet. Worth noting here is that despite being slightly thinner than the Galaxy Note 5, the camera unit on the back doesn’t protrude as much, which is one less thing to worry about when handling the device.

GalaxyA9_2

What you will notice right away when you first pick up the Galaxy A9 is its weight, and at 200 grams, it is certainly one of the heaviest smartphones we’ve come across. This heft does result in a substantial feel, but combined with the phone’s large dimensions, it can feel a little unbalanced when maneuvering it around. Given that the additional weight is likely a result of the huge battery packed into the device, it’s something that is at least understandable.  

Display

GalaxyA9_4

The Galaxy A9 comes with a 6-inch Super AMOLED display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 367 ppi. Samsung’s display prowess makes itself known once again with this screen, and everything you’d expect from a Super AMOLED panel, including vibrant, saturated colors, deep blacks, high brightness, and good viewing angles, are all to be seen here. The large display may not make for the best handling experience, but media-consumption and gaming-centric users will certainly appreciate the additional display real estate that is available to them.

GalaxyA9_5

With Quad HD being the current flagship standard, some may be disappointed with the comparatively lower resolution of the display, but Full HD definitely gets the job done in this instance. Granted, some texts may appear fuzzy, and you may notice that the images are not the sharpest, especially if you’ve moved over from a device with a Quad HD display. All said and done however, the resolution doesn’t make as much of a difference as the vibrant colors do, and this display in certainly gorgeous. Add that to the fact that using a Full HD display will also lead to some benefits in terms of battery life, and Samsung’s decision to stay with a 1080p screen does make sense.

Performance

GalaxyA9_3

You’ll find something quite different under the hood this time around, with Qualcomm returning to the Samsung fold with this device. The Galaxy A9 comes with the recently-renamed octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 GPU, backed by the Adreno 510 GPU, and 3 GB of RAM. Seeing a Snapdragon 6xx at the helm may make you think of this as a mid-range processing package, but in terms of performance, what you get is actually quite close to the Galaxy Note 5, and the A9 seemingly surpasses the Galaxy S6, which is very impressive.

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The device handles everyday tasks with ease – opening, closing, and switching between apps is a breeze, and gaming is a lot of fun, with few and far between dropped frames. Everything remains smooth and snappy for the most part, and the only instances of stutter that are noticeable are when moving to the Briefing screen to the left of the main homescreen, but that has been the case with previous Samsung smartphones as well, and is likely an issue with software optimization. The overall experience has been incredibly smooth, and the Galaxy A9 is certainly not going to disappoint as far as performance is concerned.

Hardware

GalaxyA9_17

In hardware, the Galaxy A9 comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, including NFC, and you also get dual-SIM capabilities. 32 GB is the only storage option available here, but the great news is that expandable storage is now available with a near-flagship Samsung smartphone once again, with microSD card support up to 128 GB. The lack of expandable storage with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 5 caused an uproar among consumers, and it’s nice to see Samsung bring this feature back with a device that features a premium unibody construction, and perhaps, this is a little foreshadowing of the future as well.

GalaxyA9_7

Retained from its flagship counterparts is the fingerprint scanner, returning to its usual position up front and embedded in the physical home button. Its placement allows for the scanner to be accessed at any time, letting you quickly unlock the device even if it is resting on a table. It can be a little awkward to reach it when you hold the device up, in which case the rear positioning that some OEMs have opted could be preferable.

GalaxyA9_13

You still have to push the home button for the scanner to do its thing, but the scanner is otherwise very fast and accurate, failing to read the registered fingerprint only once in around twenty attempts. Apart from just unlocking the device, the fingerprint scanner is used with Samsung Pay as well, which is always a big plus. You may not get all the bells and whistles that Samsung packs into their flagship devices with the Galaxy A9, but it’s great to see the very useful fingerprint scanner making the jump.

GalaxyA9_15

The single speaker unit is located on the right side at the bottom, and, as is the case with most bottom-mounted speakers, the placement isn’t ideal, as the sound is directed away from you, and makes for a speaker that is also very easy to cover up when holding the phone in the landscape orientation. However, it does get loud and the audio is also quite clear, with only a small amount of compression to it.

GalaxyA9_1

Moving on to the battery, we were certainly excited to put the Galaxy A9 through its paces when we first heard that it featured a large 4,000 mAh battery, and along with that, the promise of fantastic battery life. It’s certainly great news that the device stands up to that promise, and comfortably so, easily lasting for as long as 2 days with average use. Even when using the device to take a lot of pictures, I experienced a very impressive 8 hours of screen-on time.

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You’ll be hard-pressed to drain this battery quickly unless you’re a heavy gamer. On the flip side, you can get even more juice out of the battery by using Samsung’s built-in battery saving modes when you’re running low. You will rarely find the need to charge the Galaxy A9 every night, and when you do have to, it charges really quickly as well, taking advantage of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology.

Camera

GalaxyA9_16

The camera, on paper, seems to be a step down from the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 5, with the Galaxy A9 featuring a 13 MP primary shooter with a f/1.9 aperture. Fortunately, optical image stabilization is available as well, and overall, this camera is capable of taking some really good shots. To take pictures at full resolution, you’ll have to resort to shooting in a 4:3 aspect ratio however.

GalaxyA9_6

In good lighting conditions, the camera performs very well, and there is some sharpening that happens during post processing, that helps create sharp looking pictures with vibrant colors. On the negative side, the camera can struggle with dynamic range, and lots of detail can get lost in the shadows. Overexposure is also very common for the camera, especially on overcast days, but HDR does a great job with fixing this while maintaining a realistic look. Image quality deteriorates as lighting conditions worsen, and you will start to see images that are quite dull, with not a lot of vibrancy to the colors, along with lots of noise as well.

Camera samples

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The front-facing camera of the Galaxy A9 is actually a step up from what is found with its flagship counterparts, and the 8 MP shooter, also with a f/1.9 aperture, makes for a noticeable difference. While the selfie cam of the Galaxy S6 lacked detail, the Galaxy A9 allows for a good amount of detail to be seen in images. It is a wide angle lens as well, which helps get a lot of information into the shot.

Overall though, the cameras of the Galaxy A9 are very capable, but the Galaxy S6 is still the one to beat.

Software

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Finally, on the software side of things, it is certainly very surprising, and disappointing, to see the Galaxy A9, a device launched in December 2015, running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box. Granted, an official update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow is in the works, but with a device released so late in the year, we were certainly expecting it to come with the latest version of Android right away. For now, we have a version of TouchWiz that we’ve been familiar with for close to year.

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Samsung has done a decent job in toning down this version of its software package, when compared to previous iterations, but there are a few nice features still included. The notification dropdown is very nicely designed, if you don’t mind the color choice, and you do get to customize the Quick Settings toggles for easier access. Dual window support is also available, which can easily be taken advantage of when using this large display, but the feature is limited to only a select set of applications for now. Finally, the robust Theme Store is returning, which gives you the opportunity to really make the experience your own.

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Granted, there is still work to be done here, like addressing the small stutters that are seen in relation to the homescreen animations, or when swiping over to the Briefing screen, but these will hopefully be taken care of when Samsung releases the official update to Marshmallow for the Galaxy A9.

Specifications

DIsplay 6-inch Super AMOLED display
Full HD resolution, 367 ppi
Processor 1.8 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652
Adreno 510 GPU
RAM 3 GB
Storage 32 GB
expandable via microSD card by up to 128 GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.1
GPS+GLONASS
NFC
FM Radio with RDS
microUSB 2.0
Cameras 13 MP rear camera, f/1.9 aperture, OIS, LED flash
8 MP front-facing camera, f1/.9 aperture
Battery 4,000 mAh
Software Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
Dimensions 161.7 x 80.9 x 7.4 mm
200 grams

Gallery

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Pricing and final thoughts

The Samsung Galaxy A9 can be found on Amazon priced at close to the $600 mark, which is quite steep, but given the flagship features this device provides, it does make sense. Available color options include silver, white, gold, and pink gold.

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So there you have it for this in-depth look at the Samsung Galaxy A9! This smartphone proves to be quite compelling, by offering a flagship design and build quality, high-end performance, and incredible battery life, along with expandable storage coming back into the fold as well. The display resolution may not be the highest out there, and the camera may not be as good as Samsung’s flagship devices, but they are certainly not bad either. The Galaxy A9 proves that Samsung can definitely find the balance between looks and functionality, and this device could put the company back on top when it comes to creating smartphones for the power user.

11
Feb

Puxers – The fun brain game [Review]


Overview

At risk of sounding utterly cliche, Puxers is a game that’s easy to pick up, but hard to master. You flick numbered pucks around an arena, colliding like-numbered pucks with one another. When these pucks collide, they transform into the sum of those numbers. You may have no more than 12 pucks on the board at a time – any more, and you lose.

Developer: Rokitt Dynamix TM

Price: Free (Ad-Supported; Individual Undos: $0.99)

Highlights:

  • Collide like-numbered pucks to increase your score.
  • No more than 12 pucks on board at a time.
  • Use multipliers to win big!

Main Menu.

Main Menu.

Setup

Beyond the standard Google Play login, there’s not much to do as far as setup for this app goes. I’d highly recommend viewing the tutorial slides, which you access by tapping on the stylized ‘?’ on the right side of the screen.

Features

Puxers is relatively simple, but at the same time challenging and strategic. I fell in love with it very quickly. The graphics are cute and arcadey, with sounds to match,  and the game itself runs very smoothly. Pucks range in scale by powers of 2, from 2 to 8192. By colliding like numbers, you create a numbered puck that equals the sum of the two you collided. For example, colliding two 8-pucks results in a 16-puck, two 16-pucks yields a 32-puck, etc. At some point – I believe it is when the number reaches 8192, the puck simply turns into a star and leaves the field. As you accumulate numbers, your score goes up.


Basic Gameplay.

Basic Gameplay.

The kicker, however, is that if you accumulate twelve pucks on the board and fail to clear one, you lose. Game over. This is where the game’s only in-app-purchase comes into play; if you lose, you are able to Undo your last move by paying $0.99. In between games you’ll often encounter long, video-based ads that can be skipped in a few seconds, which will then direct you to a Play Store download link. A small inconvenience, but inconvenient nonetheless.


Microtransactions!

Microtransactions!

What I like

  • Simple, fun gameplay mechanics.
  • Hard to master; strategy legitimately matters.

What I don’t

  • Micro-transaction price is a little steep.
  • Multipliers seem to appear at random.

Conclusion

If you like simple, challenging puzzlers, this game is for you. Great quality of product, a simple game mechanic, and a real sense of accomplishment when you beat your score should make this game a hit if it gains traction.

Google Play Store –  Puxers – The fun brain game

The post Puxers – The fun brain game [Review] appeared first on AndroidGuys.

10
Feb

Looking back at the LG G4


Mobile World Congress 2016 is just around the corner, and as has been the case every year, there is a slew of Android smartphones that we can’t wait to get our hands on. Particularly exciting is the upcoming launch of the flagship offerings from the two Korean giants, Samsung and LG, but before ushering the new, we thought that some retrospection may be in order. We’ve already revisited the Samsung Galaxy S6, and this is our look back at the LG G4.

More LG G4 videos

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Last year, LG was the final holdout as far as offering expandable storage and removable batteries was concerned, and with even Samsung letting go of these previously staple features in favor of an admittedly premium design, the LG G4 was the only option if these features were important to you. Granted, expandable storage was still an option with some flagship releases that followed the G4, but removable batteries has almost entirely gone by the wayside with premium smartphones.

lg g4 now aa (11 of 23)

What the G4 offered over the competition was already a big plus, but LG managed to pack it all in to a beautifully-designed body as well; the G4 offers a slightly curved display that was adopted from the G Flex line, along with LG staples like the ultra-thin bezels and rear button layout. There were some extra, stylish elements found as well, with users able to choose a leather rear backing for the device, available in a variety of colors and textures. Of course, the more standard metallic (seen in this video) and ceramic finishes were available as well so there is certainly something for everyone.

lg g4 now aa (6 of 23)

The overall design aesthetic has paid dividends, with the ergonomically-friendly curved body making for a smartphone that is one of the most comfortable to use. With its unique elements, the G4 looks different from pretty much every other Android smartphone out there. However, this did lead to some issues, with the curved sides and thin profile of the device, resulting in a device that’s difficult to grip. This problem was particularly prevalent when lying in bed and holding the phone up above your face, resulting in a few, quite painful, drops.

lg g4 now aa (4 of 23)

If the current rumors about the LG G5 are true, we might actually be seeing the end of the curved display and still unique rear button layout. This will, of course, be a radically different addition to the flagship G series, and while LG is definitely going to make the design stand out, the death of these features will certainly be a shame. We really liked the design language of the LG G4, as the device stands out from the crowd, and we’re hoping that the LG G5 doesn’t disappoint.

lg g4 now aa (15 of 23)

In terms of hardware, the LG G4 brings to the table pretty much everything that is expected from a high-end LG flagship. Continuing from its predecessor, the LG G4 features a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with a Quad HD resolution, and comes with excellent color reproduction and high brightness levels, allowing it to be legible in broad daylight.

lg g4 now aa (14 of 23)

Under the hood is a hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, and while Qualcomm did have a technically superior processing package on offer in 2015 in the Snapdragon 810, the former manages to do a good job. Overall, the Snapdragon 808 proves to be nothing short of reliable, with the G4 easily able to handle GPS navigation, YouTube and Netflix video playback, music playback and general day-to-day use. The only noticeable slowdown was while gaming, with the handset displaying a little stutter while navigating in-game menus or in some cases, while playing the games themselves.

lg g4 now aa (18 of 23)

Of course, the main claim to fame for the LG G4 is all that it offers, which primarily are expandable storage and a replaceable battery. It has to be said here however, that I haven’t used a replaceable battery since the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which is obviously a very long time ago. As far as battery life is concerned, I was able to get a full day of use out of the device, with an average of around 3.5 hours of screen-on time, which is on par with what you can expect from most smartphones..

lg g4 now aa (12 of 23)

Expandable storage is also something that I concern myself with only when I’m close to running out of space on the device, and the 32 GB of built-in storage proved to be quite sufficient to cover my needs. That said, if these features are necessary for you, the LG G4 remains your best bet, and we’ll have to wait and see if the micro SD card returns in the upcoming LG G5.

lg g4 now aa (21 of 23)

The 16MP primary shooter on the LG G4 comes with f/1.8 aperture, laser autofocus and a colour spectrum sensor, and proves to be pretty reliable. When using the G4 in Auto mode, I found the experience to be quite fun, requiring just a tap anywhere on the screen in order to take a shot. While the picture taken is good most of the time, Manual mode is perfect for those moments where Auto mode doesn’t quite cut it.

Camera samples

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2015 was the year of the manual mode, and the LG G4 showed us what it could be like, with granular control over minute details. For example, even the Kelvin readings inside the white balance setting were available, so if the Auto mode wasn’t up to the task, I was able to tweak the settings to exactly what I wanted using the manual mode.


lg g4 vs iphone 6s vs galaxy note 5 vs xperia z5 Camera shootout: Xperia Z5 vs LG G4 vs Galaxy Note 5 vs iPhone 6S431

The only qualm with manual mode was the fact that using a touchscreen to change settings can be a little bit cumbersome, and it takes time to get settings correctly adjusted, which isn’t great when you’re trying to take a shot quickly. The overall picture quality has been good, with nice and detailed photos, even though the coloration could use the extra punch that I’m used to from other phones.

lg g4 now aa (20 of 23)

Finally, on the software side of things, you may have seen in the video above that I’m running the Google Now launcher on the LG G4. That may not come as much of a surprise as, unfortunately, LG’s G UI does not have that many useful features, even though it isn’t lacking in them. For example, the Smart Widget on the home screen only really served to offer weather updates. There is also the Smart Cleaner, which I have only used once or twice, and also the Q Slide, which I am thankfully able to hide in the notification drop down.

Gallery

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So there you have it for this quick look back at the LG G4! The overall experience with this smartphone has been very good, and it remains a very reliable device to have, especially if you’re able to leverage features like expandable storage and a removable battery. The design aspect is what I have enjoyed the most about this phone, and we hope that, even if we don’t see some of the more unique elements make it over to the LG G5, we get to see them in other parts of LG’s lineup.

Are you using an LG G4? What do you think of the G4 now and do you intend to buy any of the new devices expected for MWC 2016? Let us know your views in the comments below!

Next: LG G5 rumor roundup

10
Feb

Looking back at the LG G4


Mobile World Congress 2016 is just around the corner, and as has been the case every year, there is a slew of Android smartphones that we can’t wait to get our hands on. Particularly exciting is the upcoming launch of the flagship offerings from the two Korean giants, Samsung and LG, but before ushering the new, we thought that some retrospection may be in order. We’ve already revisited the Samsung Galaxy S6, and this is our look back at the LG G4.

More LG G4 videos

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Last year, LG was the final holdout as far as offering expandable storage and removable batteries was concerned, and with even Samsung letting go of these previously staple features in favor of an admittedly premium design, the LG G4 was the only option if these features were important to you. Granted, expandable storage was still an option with some flagship releases that followed the G4, but removable batteries has almost entirely gone by the wayside with premium smartphones.

lg g4 now aa (11 of 23)

What the G4 offered over the competition was already a big plus, but LG managed to pack it all in to a beautifully-designed body as well; the G4 offers a slightly curved display that was adopted from the G Flex line, along with LG staples like the ultra-thin bezels and rear button layout. There were some extra, stylish elements found as well, with users able to choose a leather rear backing for the device, available in a variety of colors and textures. Of course, the more standard metallic (seen in this video) and ceramic finishes were available as well so there is certainly something for everyone.

lg g4 now aa (6 of 23)

The overall design aesthetic has paid dividends, with the ergonomically-friendly curved body making for a smartphone that is one of the most comfortable to use. With its unique elements, the G4 looks different from pretty much every other Android smartphone out there. However, this did lead to some issues, with the curved sides and thin profile of the device, resulting in a device that’s difficult to grip. This problem was particularly prevalent when lying in bed and holding the phone up above your face, resulting in a few, quite painful, drops.

lg g4 now aa (4 of 23)

If the current rumors about the LG G5 are true, we might actually be seeing the end of the curved display and still unique rear button layout. This will, of course, be a radically different addition to the flagship G series, and while LG is definitely going to make the design stand out, the death of these features will certainly be a shame. We really liked the design language of the LG G4, as the device stands out from the crowd, and we’re hoping that the LG G5 doesn’t disappoint.

lg g4 now aa (15 of 23)

In terms of hardware, the LG G4 brings to the table pretty much everything that is expected from a high-end LG flagship. Continuing from its predecessor, the LG G4 features a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with a Quad HD resolution, and comes with excellent color reproduction and high brightness levels, allowing it to be legible in broad daylight.

lg g4 now aa (14 of 23)

Under the hood is a hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, and while Qualcomm did have a technically superior processing package on offer in 2015 in the Snapdragon 810, the former manages to do a good job. Overall, the Snapdragon 808 proves to be nothing short of reliable, with the G4 easily able to handle GPS navigation, YouTube and Netflix video playback, music playback and general day-to-day use. The only noticeable slowdown was while gaming, with the handset displaying a little stutter while navigating in-game menus or in some cases, while playing the games themselves.

lg g4 now aa (18 of 23)

Of course, the main claim to fame for the LG G4 is all that it offers, which primarily are expandable storage and a replaceable battery. It has to be said here however, that I haven’t used a replaceable battery since the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which is obviously a very long time ago. As far as battery life is concerned, I was able to get a full day of use out of the device, with an average of around 3.5 hours of screen-on time, which is on par with what you can expect from most smartphones..

lg g4 now aa (12 of 23)

Expandable storage is also something that I concern myself with only when I’m close to running out of space on the device, and the 32 GB of built-in storage proved to be quite sufficient to cover my needs. That said, if these features are necessary for you, the LG G4 remains your best bet, and we’ll have to wait and see if the micro SD card returns in the upcoming LG G5.

lg g4 now aa (21 of 23)

The 16MP primary shooter on the LG G4 comes with f/1.8 aperture, laser autofocus and a colour spectrum sensor, and proves to be pretty reliable. When using the G4 in Auto mode, I found the experience to be quite fun, requiring just a tap anywhere on the screen in order to take a shot. While the picture taken is good most of the time, Manual mode is perfect for those moments where Auto mode doesn’t quite cut it.

Camera samples

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margin: auto;

#gallery-1 .gallery-item
float: left;
margin-top: 10px;
text-align: center;
width: 33%;

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border: 2px solid #cfcfcf;

#gallery-1 .gallery-caption
margin-left: 0;

/* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

2015 was the year of the manual mode, and the LG G4 showed us what it could be like, with granular control over minute details. For example, even the Kelvin readings inside the white balance setting were available, so if the Auto mode wasn’t up to the task, I was able to tweak the settings to exactly what I wanted using the manual mode.


lg g4 vs iphone 6s vs galaxy note 5 vs xperia z5 Camera shootout: Xperia Z5 vs LG G4 vs Galaxy Note 5 vs iPhone 6S431

The only qualm with manual mode was the fact that using a touchscreen to change settings can be a little bit cumbersome, and it takes time to get settings correctly adjusted, which isn’t great when you’re trying to take a shot quickly. The overall picture quality has been good, with nice and detailed photos, even though the coloration could use the extra punch that I’m used to from other phones.

lg g4 now aa (20 of 23)

Finally, on the software side of things, you may have seen in the video above that I’m running the Google Now launcher on the LG G4. That may not come as much of a surprise as, unfortunately, LG’s G UI does not have that many useful features, even though it isn’t lacking in them. For example, the Smart Widget on the home screen only really served to offer weather updates. There is also the Smart Cleaner, which I have only used once or twice, and also the Q Slide, which I am thankfully able to hide in the notification drop down.

Gallery

#gallery-2
margin: auto;

#gallery-2 .gallery-item
float: left;
margin-top: 10px;
text-align: center;
width: 25%;

#gallery-2 img
border: 2px solid #cfcfcf;

#gallery-2 .gallery-caption
margin-left: 0;

/* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

So there you have it for this quick look back at the LG G4! The overall experience with this smartphone has been very good, and it remains a very reliable device to have, especially if you’re able to leverage features like expandable storage and a removable battery. The design aspect is what I have enjoyed the most about this phone, and we hope that, even if we don’t see some of the more unique elements make it over to the LG G5, we get to see them in other parts of LG’s lineup.

Are you using an LG G4? What do you think of the G4 now and do you intend to buy any of the new devices expected for MWC 2016? Let us know your views in the comments below!

Next: LG G5 rumor roundup

10
Feb

Finger Bow: Digit-al archery has never been so fun. [Review]


Overview

Destroy the robot in this slick Angry-Birds-meets-Cut-the-Rope style archery game. With expansive levels, four different types of arrows, half a dozen different bows and a plethora of game mechanics – switches, explosive barrels, portals, and others – this is definitely a thinking man(/woman)’s game.

Developer: GHoST Apps

Price: Free ($0.99 Premium)

Highlights:

  • 100 levels.
  • Upgradeable bows.
  • Lots of game mechanics.
  • Ad-supported or paid with no ads.

Setup


http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push();

Pretty painless. Open the app, sign into Google Play, figure out what all the icons mean, then play! There was one little thing I noticed, and that’s the fact that the game actually loads in Russian by default. If you tap on the 2 o’clock (upper right) icon that reads “Ru” it’ll change to “En,” which is from Russian to English.


Menu Screen.

Menu Screen.

Features

I was thoroughly impressed with this game. It’s got a charming, sketchbook-style aesthetic and mechanics that are familiar to anyone that’s played Angry Birds – which, let’s be honest is just about everyone these days. The game is separated into ten “seasons” of ten levels each, totaling 100 stages in all. Each stage begins with one (or more) spaces to fire your bow from, with the end goal of destroying one (or more) robots within the level.


So. Many. Bows.

So. Many. Bows.

There are a number of different mechanics to utilize in order to hit the robot; portals, which teleport your arrow to another portal; explosive barrels, which you can detonate with a flaming arrow in order to demolish objects in the world; switches, which you shoot with heavy arrows and perform a variety of functions from moving platforms to lowering bridges. There may be more mechanics to discover, but these were the ones I encountered in my time with the app.


Pro-Tip: Hit that little magnet icon.

Pro-Tip: Hit that little magnet icon.

The difficulty curve is challenging, but not impossible, and with a little trial-and-error it is very doable for someone willing to take the challenge. The unfortunate part of a trial-and-error system is that there are often ads in between tries, leading to a lot of ads – for you will fail frequently.

What I like

  • Lots of levels
  • Varied mechanics
  • Challenging but doable

What I don’t

  • Lots of trial and error
  • Ad-supported version has a lot of ads; occasionally painful in a trial-and-error system

Conclusion

Finger Bow is both a joy to play and extremely easy on the wallet. The graphics, while not top notch, are charming in their own right, and the music is very fun to listen to. The ads can occasionally provide a bit of annoyance, but overall a very enjoyable experience. I plan on keeping the game on my phone to try to reach Season 10, personally.

Google Play Store –  Finger Bow

The post Finger Bow: Digit-al archery has never been so fun. [Review] appeared first on AndroidGuys.

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