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Posts tagged ‘Sony’

2
Jul

Road to 4K: Do we need it? And who will be first?


LG G3 display close up 710px

The question of whether we need 4K (Ultra HD) displays on a smartphone has been raised in many discussions and the answer is usually that we don’t, as 4K is beyond what the typical eye can see. Yet the smartphone market is progressing at such an advanced rate that the question should be a case of when – and not if – 4K (UHD) displays become truly portable.

I vividly recall a conversation I had with a few colleagues early last year, that turned into debate about whether Quad HD would ever become a reality. Yet now, less than 18 months later, the industry already looks to be moving past QHD.

Both Samsung and LG have introduced QHD screens in their smartphones, while other manufacturers don’t seem to be showing as much interest. With that said, there are still plenty of manufacturers that strive to be the first to reach 4K UHD. Let’s take a look at who is most likely to make the first 4K phone and the benefits and drawbacks that moving to such high resolution will bring.

Display panel manufacturers

Before we can consider who will be first, we need to consider which display manufacturer is capable of producing a 4K smartphone display. There are several major LCD manufacturers, who create displays for everything from smartphones and tablets to automobiles and navigational equipment, but here’s the few that are most likely to be involved with the production of a UHD smartphone display.

Samsung Display

samsung logo x x mwc 2015

The name really speaks for itself; the company is one of the world’s leading display manufacturers and supplies displays to many of the world’s leading electronics manufacturers, including Apple. Samsung Display has already produced Quad HD Super AMOLED displays – which are used in both the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy S6 – and also has the world’s first dual-curved smartphone in the Galaxy S6 Edge (which also uses a QHD Super AMOLED screen).

LG Display

lg logo mwc 2015 c 2

Better known for its TV display heritage, LG Display provides most of the panels used in LG smartphones, including the stunning Quad HD Quantum Dot Display used on the LG G4. Its display technology is also used in other smartphones. It’s worth noting that LG Display has been the world’s leading large-sized LCD manufacturer for the past four years and, in 2014, the company accounted for 26.7 percent of the market for displays measuring 9.1 inches and above (closely followed by Samsung, who had 20.2 percent).

Sharp

Sharp Aquos-10

Sharp has a long and proud history in displays, beginning with its first television sets way back in 1953. The manufacturer produces screens of all sizes and owns the only 10th generation LCD manufacturing plant on the planet. In 2010, it struck an agreement to produce displays for Samsung and it can also count Apple and other OEMs amongst its customers. In 2014, the company recorded 2.8 percent of the large-sized LCD market and it has already shown off the world’s first 4K smartphone screen (more on that below).

Innolux

innolux

The Taiwanese company is relatively young, having only been founded in 2003 before being publicly floated in 2006. In March 2010, the company in its current state was founded through the biggest merger in the flat panel display industry, when Innolux, Chi Mei Optoelectronics and Toppoly Optoelectronics merged. In 2014, Innolux was the third largest producer of large screen displays with 17.8 percent of total shipments including supplying panels to Samsung, LG, Sony and providing most of the screens used in Toshiba, Sharp (where it is equal to Sharp itself), Panasonic and Phillips devices.

AU Optronics

AUO's 4K Curved Ultra HD TVs

AUO’s 4K Curved Ultra HD TVs

AU Optronics (AUO), the second Taiwanese manufacturer on our list supplies several manufacturers including Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and several Chinese manufacturers (including HiSense, Konka and Haier). With several smartphone players amongst its customers, AUO would have plenty of potential buyers if it developed a 4K smartphone screen. In 2014, the company controlled 16.8 percent of the large LCD market and provided a large amount of the displays used in Sony devices measuring 9.1 inches or more.

Japan Display

Japan Display's 4K Tablet Display

Japan Display’s 4K Tablet Display

Japan Display Inc (JDI) is the youngest company on the market, having launched only on April 1st 2012 through the government-backed merger of the loss-making display divisions of Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi. JDI was created specifically to manufacturer small and medium sized displays for mobile devices and has the largest production capacity of LTPS LCD displays in the industry.

Benefits of 4K

There are many benefits to using 4K on smartphones, both immediate and in the future. The key benefits and reasons to use 4K in smartphones are the knock-on effect and the benefits to virtual reality.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality may seem like something that belongs in the movies but over the past year, we’ve seen a new breed of virtual reality devices, which are powered by smartphones. Samsung’s Gear VR range uses the company’s next-generation handsets (the Note 4 and Galaxy S6) as the display in a virtual reality headset and this trend looks like one that might be followed by other manufacturers.

Using 4K on a smartphone would offer more pixels for virtual reality to work with; the current smartphone market plateaus at Quad HD and while the experience is certainly immersive, the higher resolution offered by 4K would mean an even better experience.

Packing millions of pixels into a smartphone display would also mean colours and vibrancy are improved, resulting in an overall better VR experience. Virtual reality might still seem like a concept at times, but with smartphones ever developing, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes an integral part of our daily lives.

The knock-on effect

The Idol 3 is only $250 and yet has a 1080p display.. an example of the knock on effect at work?

The Idol 3 is only $250 and yet has a 1080p display… an example of the knock-on effect at work?

Arguably the biggest reason for manufacturers to go to 4K on their smartphones is the knock-on effect; as 4K Ultra HD panels become affordable at a smaller size, the cost of panels with Full HD and even Quad HD would reduce dramatically. As a result, manufacturers would be able to use these panels in handsets where, previously, this wasn’t possible due to the cost.

Affordable for all…

The knock-on effect is not just with the display, as 4K on smartphones would mean advanced processors are being used in flagships. As a result, all components that are currently used in flagships would reduce in price and instead of being limited to just premium devices with a high price tag, they would be affordable enough to be used further down the smartphone chain. As a result, the knock-on effect of 4K would mean the entire smartphone industry advances ahead of where it currently is.

Those are some of the big benefits of 4K on smartphones, but what about the potential pitfalls? What do manufacturers need to watch out for and is 4K on smartphones even technically possible?

Pitfalls of 4K

There are three perceived major pitfalls to using 4K on smartphones – battery life, cost, and lack of available content – and I personally believe that the design factor will also be a concern when considering 4K smartphones. Let’s take a look at these in more detail:

Battery life

The biggest concern with using 4K on a smartphone is an issue that affects all smartphones and doesn’t just apply to Ultra HD: battery life. Although mobile technology has advanced considerably over the past few years, battery technology hasn’t followed suit and one reason that manufacturers are avoiding even Quad HD resolution is the additional strain on the battery from powering those extra pixels.

The current crop of Quad HD enabled smartphones feature battery capacities between 2,550mAh and 3,300mAh and these provide on average, between 10 and 40 hours battery life depending on usage. Something I’ve personally noticed is that using Quad HD displays at full brightness – which is really the only way to enjoy the next-generation display and resolution – can reduce battery life by half, and with Ultra HD displays, the temptation will likely be to use the display at full brightness wherever possible, to make the most out of the next-generation display.

Powering an Ultra HD display will require more than just the display itself as next-generation processors will be needed to power the display in the most effective manner. Alongside the cost factor (which we’ll look at below), these may also draw more power and the effect on battery life is likely to be impacted even further.

Cost

The smartphone industry has followed a predictable trend over the past decade; at first, smartphones were very expensive with a small feature set and then as technology advanced, the cost of components and handsets themselves reduced considerably.

Over the past eighteen months, we’ve seen a trend where smartphones are currently rising in cost and this looks set to continue as the feature set of premium flagship handsets becomes more advanced. Consider the cost of the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus as outlined in the table below:

Storage iPhone 6 iPhone 6 Plus Galaxy S6 Galaxy S6 Edge  
16GB $649 / £539 $749 / £619 N/A N/A
32GB N/A N/A $699 / £599 $849 / £ N/A
64GB $749 / £619 $849 / £699 $799 / £660 $949 / £760
128GB $849 / £699 $949 / £789 $885 / £730 $990 / £899

Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S6 Edge has a starting price of $849 for the base 32GB model, which rises to $990 for the 128GB model and makes the Galaxy S6 Edge the highest-priced flagship on the market to-date. This handset comes with real innovation – the dual-edged curve makes the Galaxy S6 Edge the true flagship – but if the same handset were to sport Ultra HD resolution and next-generation internals, the price could conceivably increase by $200-$300, if not more.

Based on historical trends, it could take two years for Ultra HD to become truly affordable for smartphones and even then, it might take a year or two extra before it’s widely used on all smartphones. By way of comparison, the LG G4 also has a Quad HD display but can be had for approximately $699 and the varying price is down to the difference in materials and design.

As mentioned above, battery life would also need to be improved and innovation in battery technology may result in increasing the cost of a 4K smartphone further. As a result, it’s possible we could see 4K smartphones cost upwards of $1000 when they are first introduced to the market and this could make them inaccessible to most, if not all, consumers.

At present, 4K Ultra HD televisions can be purchased for as little as £400 (approx. $600) in the UK but no more than two years ago, these retailed for upwards of £2000 (approx. $3000). The drastic reduction in the cost of a 4K TV suggests that 4K smartphones would initially be higher priced but reduce in cost as more manufacturers explore the use of next-generation displays.

Lack of 4K video

4K televisions may have been around for a few years but the available 4K content doesn’t currently reflect the wide availability of 4K TVs. In the UK at least, broadcasters are yet to adopt the next generation standard and on more than one occasion, I’ve overheard discussions where consumers opt not to go for a 4K TV as the available content doesn’t reflect the cost of said TVs.

Producing content in 4K requires advanced equipment and an overhaul of existing infrastructure. Currently, broadcasters see very little reason to bare the cost of these upgrades as consumers themselves see very little appeal in 4K and this cycle could result in a stunt in growth and innovation.

The introduction ­– and adoption – of 4K on smartphones could provide the boost necessary to tempt media companies into making more 4K content. However, it’s also possible that manufacturers investing in 4K on mobile devices could find that consumers themselves have little interest in it.

The design factor

This is a pitfall to 4K that I personally believe should also be taken under consideration: the design factor. Smartphone design has followed the trend of handsets becoming smaller and thinner before displays became larger and larger; the current crop of handsets suggest that displays measuring between 4.7 and 5.2 inches are the plateau for a normal smartphone with displays between 5.5 and 6.5 inches indicating a phablet device.

OEMs currently follow one of two design strategies: go as thin as possible – like the flagship Huawei P8 which measures just 6.4mm thick – or go stylish with as many features as possible – like the curved HTC One M9 or the LG G4  which measures between 6.3mm and 9.8mm thick. The introduction of a 4K smartphone along with the extra battery capacity needed and the advanced internals could result in an impact on the possibilities of design. Could manufacturers like Samsung bring a handset that is as slim and feature-packed as the Galaxy S6 or dual-curved like the Galaxy S6 Edge and still incorporate an Ultra HD display, bigger battery and next-generation internals?

Do we need 4K on smartphones?

A couple of years ago, we may have asked the same question about Quad HD and before that, even about Full HD. 4K definitely has both major benefits and major pitfalls that OEMs will need to consider and evaluate before introducing a 4K smartphone, but the question of whether we need 4K is different to both Quad HD and Full HD.

The minimum density the human eye can see without being able to discern pixels is 350 pixels per inch density, which is slightly higher than Apple’s Retina Display on the iPhone 6, which offers 326ppi pixel density.

  Resolution Screen Size
HD Ready 1280×720 4.196 inches
Full HD 1920×1080 6.294 inches
Quad HD 2560×1440 8.394 inches
Ultra HD 3840×2160 12.588 inches

Reverse calculating the density leads us to the figures in the table above, which suggest that a Full HD screen measuring 6.294 inches is the point at which the average human eye stops discerning individual pixels. For Quad HD resolution, the display size increases to 8.394 inches – like the QHD display on the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 – and for Ultra HD, this increases further to 12.588 inches.

Considering the trends we highlighted earlier in the design factor, a 4K smartphone measuring 5.0 inches would result in a pixel density of 881ppi – almost three times as much as the human eye actually needs – while a phablet measuring 6 inches would result in a pixel density of 734 pixels per inch (which is far above anything on the market at the moment).

The average human eye doesn’t need anything above Full HD resolution in a 5-inch phone, but the market has already moved significantly past this threshold. Likewise, bar some major technological obstacles (battery consumption, insufficient processing power), it looks like the industry will adopt 4K. To answer the question, we probably don’t need 4K, but the electronics industry rarely settles for “good enough,” so it looks like we’re going to get it anyway.

4K – who will get there first?

Now we know everything there is to know about 4K, the question becomes who will be first to market. Based on past innovation in the market, there are just a handful of companies who would be able to successfully bring a commercially viable 4K smartphone to market.

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The most obvious of these are the two Korean manufacturers – LG and Samsung. Both companies have sibling divisions focusing on display technology and between them, they supply over 50 percent of the LCD panels used in consumer electronics today. LG was the first mainstream OEM to bring a Quad HD display to the market – the LG G3 – followed a few months later by Samsung with the Note 4.

Moving on from the big two and we come to two Chinese manufacturers: Huawei and Xiaomi. Speaking at the IFA 2015 GPC last month, Paul Gray – a Principal Analyst at IHS-DisplaySearch – quoted research that suggested 17 percent of all 4K televisions this year would be sold in China. The demand for technology in an ever-advancing market suggests that both of these manufacturers could be instrumental in bringing the first Ultra HD smartphone to market.

Huawei Tour of China 2015

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During our trip to China in January, Huawei confirmed that it had no current plans to adopt Ultra HD on smartphones due to the perceived cost to battery life but the company also revealed that it is looking into next-generation battery technology. Innovation in battery would solve the perceived cost of features over battery life and could mean that Huawei finally adopts displays above Full HD.

Rival Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi is also worth a mention as a potential candidate to launch an Ultra HD handset, but this seems less likely as the company focuses on bringing devices at an affordable price. While some of their handsets may be higher priced than the company’s ARPU (Average Revenue Per Unit), it’s unlikely Xiaomi could introduce the first 4K Ultra HD smartphone and still make it affordable enough.

Last on this list is Sharp and we’ve saved this until the end for good reason – the company appears to be working on the first 5.5 inch Ultra HD on the market, though the Japanese company never officially confirmed its existence. The screen boasts an eye-watering 806 pixels per inch density and is expected to go into mass production next year. Rather tellingly, Chinese manufacturers are being suggested as amongst the first customers for the advanced smartphone display.

This information suggests that the first commercially available 4K smartphones will launch towards the end of 2016 or in early 2017. Based on current smartphone launch cycles, if Samsung and LG were first, then we could see next year’s Galaxy Note or LG G flagship offer Ultra HD but it’s more likely that the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2017 will be our first glimpse of a 4K smartphone.

4K – the conclusion

Talking to the BBC about Sharp’s new 4K smartphone screen, analyst Tim Coulling from Calasys suggested that the perceived benefits of upgrading from 2K to 4K are minimal:

“At a certain point, the improvements get less visually stunning. Once you jump from 2K to 4K, you’re going to struggle to tell the two images apart even if you have perfect vision.”

However, while this will certainly apply to smartphones, I personally think the benefits of using Ultra HD on a tablet would be more apparent. My thoughts are that Quad HD will suffice on any device up to 7 inches in size and Ultra HD should be limited to tablets measuring 7.1 inches or more.

Using this as an example, a Quad HD device measuring 7 inches would offer approx. 420 pixels per inch density (which is considered great by smartphone standards), while an Ultra HD display on a tablet measuring 8 inches (like the Galaxy Tab S) would offer 550ppi, which is slightly higher than the 533ppi density offered by the Quad HD display on the LG G4.

Smartphone displays have evolved drastically over the past two years, but while we’re able to get pixel densities in excess of 500 on a smartphone, the same can’t be said for the tablet market. As an example, the Retina Display on the iPad Air 2 offers 264ppi density while the Quad HD display on the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 offers 288ppi density – both of these are below the human eye threshold and offer an experience that is visibly worse than their smartphone counterparts. Increasing to Ultra HD would result in pixel densities of 454 and 419 respectively, which would bring tablets beyond the point at which the human eye can notice pixels.

It’s just a question of who’s gonna be first…

As compelling an argument the numbers make, the fact that Sharp have a Ultra HD smartphone panel in the making suggests that 4K and beyond will become reality sooner rather than later. Whether we need them or not is a debate that will be contested for years to come, but 4K on smartphones is soon to be reality; it’s just a question of who will be first.

Who do you think will be first? Do you think we need 4K on smartphones? Let us know your views in the comments below.

1
Jul

Sony Xperia Z4 tablet review: a great device saddled with a terrible dock


Xperia Z4 Tablet

Sony’s tablets have quietly been getting better over the years. Prioritizing refinement over dazzling new features, the Xperia Z2 Tablet and Z3 Tablet Compact were two of 2014’s best. The Xperia Z4 Tablet is the direct replacement to the Z2, and Sony has ticked off all the right checkboxes in creating it. With its slim profile, super-high res display and all the latest chips inside, it looks like a dream on paper. Does it live up to expectations?

Hardware

Xperia Z4 Tablet

As is par for the course with Sony devices, the Z4 doesn’t deviate wildly from the design of its predecessor, but that’s not a huge problem. The Z2 was thin, light, fast and waterproof; the Z4 is thinner, lighter, faster and… waterproofer. We’ve seen this basic blueprint in some variation since early 2013, which makes the Z4 a fairly anonymous slab of plastic and glass.

That’s not to say there’s been no improvement since the last model, though. The Z4 is a noticeably smaller tablet, with slimmer bezels cutting its footprint down significantly. It now measures 6.57 inches tall (versus the Z2’s 6.8), and a clean 10 inches wide. The reduction in width represents a big step forward. Sony’s trimmed about half an inch from the Z2, which makes the tablet much easier to hold given the screen’s 16:10 aspect ratio.

Although the dimensions have changed a bit, the only real “wow” factor here is the weight. The LTE version I tested is just 393g (0.87 pound). For context, the Z2 weighed 439g (0.97 pound), and the cellular iPad Air 2 is 444g (0.98 pound). Now this may sound stupid, but the Z4 is almost too light. Something about the lack of density makes me scared that if I’d drop it, it’d shatter into tiny pieces. The tablet’s lack of heft and matte black plastic back just don’t feel reassuring when compared to the iPad’s aluminum or even the Nexus 9’s soft-touch plastic.

Sony has changed a few things along the edges of the device, the most obvious being the removal of the Z2’s magnetic charging pins and IR blaster. It’s also moved the micro-USB port over to the right side, and has managed to waterproof things sufficiently to negate the need to hide it behind a covering. Not having to deal with a fiddly piece of plastic every time you want to charge your tablet is a big plus. There is still one flap necessary to achieve the Z4’s IP65/68 water- and dust-resistant ratings, but it only conceals the microSD and SIM slots. Given how unlikely you are to swap out either with any regularity, it’s really not a big deal.

Internally, you’re getting everything you’d expect from a 2015 tablet. A Snapdragon 810 chip with 3GB of RAM; a 10.1-inch, 2K panel; 32GB of storage expandable via microSD; a 6,000mAh battery; and the usual selection of connectivity options like WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC and, if you plump for the cellular version, Cat 6 LTE. What does all that mean? Well, as you’d expect, Sony stuffed the fastest components it could find into its flagship tablet, but there’s nothing spectacularly exciting or new here.

Before we move on, a quick diversion: The first tablet Sony gave me failed its waterproofing test. Although there was no visible damage, some water had clearly entered into the display, as the tablet was receiving ghost touch inputs. The second tablet I received passed the same test with flying colors. Sony assures me that this was a pre-production unit, and that the issue is not widespread. As I’ve never had any problem with Sony’s waterproofing before, I’m inclined to believe the explanation. For full transparency, though, it needs to be noted.

Display and sound

Xperia Z4 Tablet

It’s been some 16 months since I first laid hands on the Z2. Its 1,920 x 1,200 display still holds up as one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen, so much so that I wouldn’t have complained that loudly if Sony had just stuck with it for the Z4. It hasn’t, of course, instead opting for an all-new 2,560 x 1,600 panel, which is utterly gorgeous. It uses the same Triluminos tech as the Z2, but ups both the pixel density and the maximum brightness. Blacks are deep; viewing angles are perfect; and colors are rich without being gaudy.

This is a gorgeous display, until you take it outside.

I struggled to find anything I disliked about this screen. Until, that is, I ventured out into my garden, put on an episode of Orange is the New Black and attempted to take advantage of a rare moment of London sunshine. The display is plenty bright enough, but thanks to the Z4’s hyper-reflective glass, I had to shift the tablet around a lot to try and get a view unhampered by reflections. The Z2 had the same problem, and that nothing was apparently done to improve things is saddening.

Another cause for concern comes in the form of the subpar stereo speakers mounted on either side of the display. The audio they pump out is tinny and distorted, especially at higher volumes. I could make a dozen comparisons, but here’s one that should illustrate just how bad things are. My iPhone 6’s tiny speaker offers better bass response, cleaner mids and highs, is less distorted at every volume level and ultimately goes louder. To state the obvious, the iPhone is not a paradigm of high-fidelity audio, and is easily bested by other smartphones like HTC’s One M9.

Given the Z4 is a 10.1-inch tablet with a killer screen, the poor speakers feel like a big oversight. Whether that’s a huge issue for you, though, really depends on where you’re going to be using the tablet. Generally, if I want to watch or play something on a tablet, either I’m out of the house or the TV is taken. Because of that, I’m almost always going to be using headphones anyway. If you’re likely to use a tablet in place of a TV or laptop, though, the audio quality might be a dealbreaker.

Software

The Z4 comes with a modified version of Android 5.0.2. Sony can have a pass from me on not including Google’s latest and greatest version, given that 5.1 wasn’t publicly detailed until after the tab was announced. That said, the custom Xperia interface hasn’t really moved forward over the past year, despite Android changing massively in the same time.

All of Sony’s additions are still present, such as the “small apps” feature, which lets you float a little calculator, browser, calendar, et cetera over regular applications, but virtually none of the Material Design tweaks that came with Android Lollipop have been integrated. The pop-up app drawer, the Google Now tab to the left of the home screen — it’s all missing, leaving the same distinctly dated experience as found on past Xperias. The only meaningful change from the design we saw last year actually came to the Z2 with its 5.0.2 update: The multitasking menu now offers large panel previews in place of the tiny row of horizontally scrollable icons.

I really don’t see much of a problem with Sony’s home screen changes. All the apps on the tablet are going to be up-to-date, and the software experience here represents Android skinning at its least offensive. One thing I do take issue with is all the apps that come preloaded with the Z4. The total number of Sony-specific software is comfortably into double figures, along with a slew of third-party apps. If I want Microsoft Office, Garmin Navigator or AVG AntiVirus, I’ll download them myself. At least all the third-party software can be uninstalled, as can some of the Sony stuff.

About those Sony apps: They’ve changed a little from previous offerings, with “Walkman” and “Movies” making way for “Music” and “Video.” Unless you’re in love with Sony’s ecosystem, though, you’re unlikely to make much use of either. Virtually all Sony’s solutions are duplicated by either the suite of Google apps that comes with Android or well-known third-party apps. It’s purely a matter of preference, and mine is always with Google’s and other’s efforts. There is one notable outlier, one thing that Sony has going for it: PlayStation Remote Play.

Remote Play

Xperia Z4 Tablet

Because I’m an avid gamer and a PlayStation 4 owner, the Remote Play feature, which lets you stream your PS4 from anywhere with an internet connection, proved very useful. I’m one of roughly 27 people who bought a PlayStation Vita, and have played with Remote Play a fair amount. The experience on the Z4 tablet is far superior, thanks largely to the fact it has a good WiFi chip and supports real controllers. Setup is simple: Make sure you’re connected to a WiFi network; insert your PSN ID; pair your DualShock 4 controller via Bluetooth; and away you go. So long as you allow your PS4 to do so in the settings, it’ll wake itself up from Rest Mode to let you play.

As you’d expect from any game-streaming setup, how well things work depends a lot on the strength of the networks your PS4 and tablet are connected to. My console is hooked up to a solid (70 Mbps down, 30 Mbps up, 12ms ping) network via Ethernet, and when my tablet was on the same network, things were virtually flawless. Graphically, things are a tiny bit softer than when you’re playing on your TV, but input lag was low enough that I could successfully play (almost) any game I tried. That “almost” comes from my attempt to play Ultra Street Fighter IV. It’s a game I’d rather play with a wired arcade-style setup than a wireless controller anyway, so even the smallest amount of lag is too much for me to cope with. Other twitchy games like Hotline Miami 2 and Resogun worked just fine.

What can you do on a lesser connection? Quite a lot. My second setup (30 Mbps down, 7 Mbps up, 25ms ping) made Resogun a bit of a chore — it felt something like playing online co-op — but I managed to steer my beloved AFC Wimbledon team to a second successive Premier League title in FIFA 15 with no trouble.

Buoyed on by my success, I tested Remote Play with the worst connection available to me — the rather spotty LTE signal in my bedroom. With 5 Mbps down, 2 Mbps up and a 50ms ping, it’s very close to the bare minimum requirements Sony lists (5 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up). Performance took an expected hit, but much like using the PlayStation Now streaming service on a poor connection, if you pick your game, it’s still feasible. After swearing at FIFA 15 due to both lag and visual artifacts, I went with Telltale’s Game of Thrones — basically a choose-your-own-adventure book with some quick-time events. Despite the aforementioned artifacting and some occasional stutter, it was totally playable.

Using Remote Play to stream video is feasible, even over LTE.

So here’s a fairly new, basically unannounced Remote Play feature. Due to licensing reasons, you’ve never been allowed to use apps like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video remotely. But Sony recently added a Media Player to the PS4, and there are zero restrictions on streaming it. If you have a hard drive or a USB stick connected to your console, you can basically use Remote Play to access any video you have from anywhere in the world. I tested it out with a Louis CK standup special and it worked like a dream even on my middling connection setup. Input lag isn’t an issue if you’re just watching a video, so streaming over cellular was entirely possible, if a little stuttery on occasion. You can also control the system with an on-screen overlay, which is no good for games, but works just fine for the Media Player.

I’m aware that streaming movies and TV shows absolutely wasn’t what Sony had in mind when it introduced Remote Play. If you’re the type who has a 2TB drive full of videos, though, it’s a really simple way to access that library from anywhere in the world. The fact that I don’t need to remember to leave my PC on to play media remotely (as I do with Plex) is a big plus as well.

Keyboard dock

Xperia Z4 Tablet

In the UK, Sony will not sell you a Z4 without an accompanying keyboard dock. While it’s unclear if that’ll be the case in the US, the fact that it’s bundled with every tablet here means I pretty much have to talk about it. Long story short: I really don’t like the thing.

The keyboard dock connects wirelessly, with the tablet simply held in place by rubber inserts in a slot above the keys. The slot is hinged so you can change the angle of the screen a little, but not enough to ever make it as comfortable as using a notebook. In fact, when tilting the hinge as far back as possible, the weight of the tablet meant that it constantly toppled over on my lap. The keys themselves are well-spaced (for a 10-inch format, as least), and offer a decent amount of travel, but are squidgy enough that typing feels thoroughly unsatisfying. I managed to bang out about half of this review using the dock before giving up and switching to my laptop.

Putting the dock’s deficiencies to one side, Android as a notebook OS is just a bit of a mess. Key apps that I use daily aren’t optimized for tablets, let alone laptops, and there are problems with keyboard input. For example: Hangouts recognizes a press of the Return key as “send message.” Messenger and Slack see it as “start new line.” That means you have to touch the send button on the screen for every message. It’s just not a consistent experience. You’ll also run into applications that force portrait mode in their splash screen (hi, Spotify), and true multitasking is always out of the question.

Sony tried to mitigate these problems by adding something like Windows’ Start Menu to its build of Android. With the keyboard attached, tapping the bottom-left corner of the home screen opens a small pop-up with shortcuts to recently used apps and the “Small Apps” mode. You’ll also see a row of icons where you can pin your choice of applications, making switching between productivity apps pretty easy. It’s well-done, but it doesn’t really make up for Android’s other shortcomings as a notebook OS.

Camera

Xperia Z4 Tablet

I don’t think I’ll ever understand the daily horde of tourists wandering around London snapping photos with enormous tablets. These people do exist, though, and thanks to them I had to swallow my pride to head out of the office and do the same.

As far as I can tell, the Z4’s rear-mounted 8.1-megapixel camera is no better than the subpar one found on last year’s model. If you’re into your photography, you’ll find the photos it takes are often disappointing. So much so that after a few days, I became stupidly happy whenever I managed to capture a decent image, like I’d developed a rare photographic form of Stockholm syndrome. There’s a general softness to all the images, something that’s especially noticeable when you try and take a close-up shot. Colors are reasonably accurate and the software does a good job with white balance, but subpar low-light performance really limits you at nighttime.

People shooting photos with a tablet are unlikely to care as much about image quality as I do, so the fact that this takes passable photos most of the time may be enough. At least the camera app itself is good. It’s unique to Xperia devices, and it’s easy to navigate and start shooting. Like Sony’s standalone cameras, the default mode is called “Superior Auto.” It’s reasonably efficient, taking OK images most of the time. Manual mode offers up more controls. Each shot will be more of a hassle to get right, but if you know what you’re doing, the results will be better than in auto mode.

The app also integrates gimmicky things like “Face in picture” mode, which uses both front and rear cameras simultaneously, and “AR Fun,” which adds virtual objects like dinosaurs to your scenes. The latter is sadly not as enjoyable as the name promises. A more useful add-on is the option to jump to third-party services like Evernote before you even take a photo. This is essentially just a deep link into an app. Instead of taking a photo of a bill or a business card, and sharing it, you can click “Evernote” and jump directly into Evernote’s photo tool. This offers a better interface for the task, and (sort of) saves you a step. It’s a tiny thing (that’s been done before), but I still find it useful.

Although the main camera was apparently forgotten, the front-facing shooter has been given a lot of attention. As I frequently use tablets for Skype, the upgrade to a 5.1-megapixel sensor is welcome, and the camera was more than good enough for video calling. It’s got a wide-angle lens so you can comfortably fit two people in frame without squeezing in, and it does a good job of boosting brightness in dark rooms without making the image too grainy. According to the person on the other end of my test calls, the built-in microphone was a little on the echoey side, but all told, it beat my laptop in terms of fidelity. If I had to force a complaint, it would be that Sony’s image processing is on the strong side. In some of my selfies I look kind of like I’ve applied a little too much foundation and/or blush.

I would be remiss to talk about the front-facing cam without mentioning AR Mask, a Sony add-on that replaces your face with a lion’s, a gorilla’s or even another human’s. Although it’s a vaguely impressive tech demo, the results are terrifying and terrible, especially when you choose one of the human faces, or add your own. Try to erase this from your memory:

AR Masks are terrifying

Performance and battery life

I’ve got a couple of Snapdragon 810-powered devices lying around, but this is the first I’ve tested that pairs Qualcomm’s best with such a high-res display. It didn’t take long for the Z4 to dispel any fears that pushing so many pixels would cause things to slow down. It shines everywhere you’d expect a flagship to shine. Graphically intensive games were smooth and unmarred by slowdown or stutter. After 50-plus hours of testing, I didn’t find a single game or app that slowed the tablet down. Yes, individual apps occasionally throw up issues, but while it’s frustrating, it’s difficult to blame Sony for that. I’m not sure if a supercomputer could help Chrome for Android handle the most complex of websites.

Sony claims you’ll get 17 hours of video playback from the Z4, and from our tests, that’s not too far from the truth. The Z4 managed almost 15 hours of continuous video while syncing Twitter every 10 minutes over WiFi. That’s pretty damn impressive given the battery is exactly the same size as last year’s model, and the same test drained the Z2 in just eight hours.

In real-world use, I found battery life to be similarly good. I used the tablet as my primary device for an entire day — we’re talking 12 hours of Spotify playback, instant messaging, Twitter gazing and intermittent writing, followed by a couple hours of Netflix to wind down. At the end of that marathon, it was still comfortably above 40 percent. Battery life really took a hit when gaming, using Remote Play and making Skype calls, but the Z4 is easily competitive with everything else on the market when it comes to endurance.

The competition

This is where things get a little confusing. Depending on where you live, the Z4 may arrive bundled with a keyboard dock. The decision in your territory will severely impact what it’s competing against. In the UK, Sony only sells the Z4 with 32GB of storage and a bundled keyboard dock. This appears to have ramped up the price considerably.

The basic WiFi model costs £499 ($785), and the LTE model will set you back £579 ($911). Local taxes and relative currency strengths make those dollar conversions somewhat pointless, so here’s the (inevitable) iPad comparison to illustrate what that means in real terms. Apple doesn’t sell a 32GB iPad Air 2, but it does sell 16GB and 64GB variants. In the UK, they come in at £399/£499 (16GB WiFi/LTE) and £479/£579 (64GB WiFi/LTE). Basically, because of the bundled keyboard dock, Apple’s tablets are cheaper than Sony’s. It’s rare that you can say Apple is winning on value.

Things get worse when you add Android tablets into the equation. Take HTC’s Nexus 9 as a starting point. It has a slightly smaller display, a less-powerful Tegra K1 processor, and no microSD slot, but it hums along nicely and is guaranteed to be running the latest version of Android, at least for the foreseeable future. The Nexus 9 is far less costly then the Z4, and offers a functionally comparable experience, with the main missing feature being Remote Play. Samsung’s excellent Tab S can also be found for cheaper, as can virtually every other tablet on the market, at least while Sony insists on this bundling idea.

Personally, I want my tablet to be a tablet and my laptop to be a laptop. If you’re actually looking for something that can do both, though, there’s a reason that 99 percent of hybrids run Windows. Microsoft’s OS is simply better-suited to the task, even at the low-end range. You can pick up a 64GB Surface 3 with a keyboard for $629, or the 128GB version with double the RAM for $729. There are loads of other alternatives out there, both cheap and expensive.

Wrap-up

Xperia Z4 Tablet

If Sony sells the Z4 without a bundled keyboard dock in the US — the company has not responded to my request for comment on the matter– then it’d be easy to recommend this to anyone looking for an Android tablet. Yes, it has shortcomings — namely woeful speakers and a reflection-loving display — but there’s a lot to love here. This could be the perfect tablet for you. It’s light, thin and more-than powerful enough. It offers PS4 Remote Play, and it’s waterproof. I’ll update this review if and when Sony makes its US strategy public. But for now, with the dock and ultra-high price, it’s impossible to recommend the Z4.

Filed under: Tablets, Sony

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1
Jul

Sony’s Cast-friendly speakers offer high-res and multi-room audio


If you’re a fan of using Google’s Cast tech, AirPlay or Spotify Connect to handle your wireless speaker duties, Sony announced a trio of audio gadgets that play nice with all three. Continuing its affinity for alphanumeric product names, the company’s SRS-X77, SRS-X88 and SRS-X99 speakers also feature a Sonos-like multi-room experience thanks to the Song Pal app. The pricier two of the lot, the SRS-X88 and SRS-X99, add in support for high-resolution audio via USB and a thumb drive or direct connection to your computer. If you prefer to go that route, you can expect compatibility with AAC, FLAC, WAV and other file formats that offer better sound quality over a regular ol’ MP3. The SRS-X88 and SRS-X99 also pack in a S-Master HX digital amplifier and LDAC tech that’s said to keep Bluetooth streams sounding top notch (from compatible devices, natch). The difference main between the two? Power. The SRS-X88 has five speakers at 90 watts and the SRS-X99 houses seven with 154 watts. I guess it really just depends on how loud you want to blast “Hells Bells.”

So, what about that SRS-X77? You’ll still get the wireless chops of AirPlay, Cast and Connect, but this is more of an entry-level device, so it doesn’t offer those features that audiophiles may be looking for. That being said, it’s also the most affordable at $300 while the SRS-X88 and SRS-X99 are priced at $400 and $700, respectively. All three speakers are available for pre-order now, and will arrive later this month at Amazon, Best Buy and the Sony online store.

Filed under: Portable Audio/Video, HD, Sony

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1
Jul

Disney Infinity might make its way to Microsoft’s HoloLens


It’s only natural for an entertainment corporation as massive as The Walt Disney Company, with IP holdings that span the likes of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, to be exploring the potential of virtual reality. It’s something John Vignocchi, VP of Production at Disney Interactive, the division behind toys-to-life platform Disney Infinity, confirmed when we chatted a few weeks back. But when it comes to Infinity, the future focus seems to be weighted more towards augmented reality. “We’ve had multiple meetings and discussions with Oculus; multiple meetings and discussions with Sony about Morpheus; multiple meetings and discussions with Microsoft about HoloLens. We’re very interested in that space,” Vignocchi said. “There’s the socialization problem right now with VR, but augmented reality is very exciting.”

The issue of isolation in VR isn’t new. It’s a hurdle Sony PlayStation addressed onstage during its E3 presentation last month and one Worldwide Studio head Shuhei Yoshida is determined to overcome with a range of new Morpheus demos (see: RIGS). But despite the inroads being made towards socializing VR gameplay, Disney Interactive head John Blackburn remains unconvinced it’s the way forward for the local co-op baked into the family-friendly Infinity.

My own experience with these devices right now is that I feel like they almost cut directly against what we’re trying to do which is experiences that can involve you with somebody else,” Blackburn said. “…The idea of kind of creating that family memory and playing it together is really core to the experience we’re trying to build. And so when you put a lot of these headsets on, it’s almost isolating in a way. Until we can get over that piece of the technology, it’s not as interesting to me.”

Which is why Blackburn hinted that if infinity were to pick a side in the VR vs AR battle, it’d likely come out as a HoloLens project. And when you consider the parallels between the crafting of Infinity‘s Toy Box creation mode and Microsoft’s recently announced HoloLens Minecraft project, the prospect doesn’t seem too far-fetched. Though, that’s not to say Disney Interactive’s completely ruling out VR.

“You kind of look at Microsoft’s HoloLens stuff where you can kind of see through,” said Blackburn. “And that one’s kind of interesting from that perspective because I can see everybody else around me. But yes, we’re absolutely interested in that space because the toybox itself is kind of a very interesting concept of ‘I’m in the world I built.’

Filed under: Gaming, HD, Sony, Microsoft

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1
Jul

Sony launches “First Flight” to encourage employee innovation and invention


sony_first_flight_banner

Sony has announced a new phase in their Seed Acceleration Program, “First Flight” which merges crowdfunding and e-commerce site features to help promote ideas and products generated internally by Sony employees. The Seed Acceleration Program is Sony’s means for encouraging new business ideas by employees and if good enough, eventually transforming them into a full-fledged business. The new First Flight initiative is meant to help “move people emotionally through innovation” by connecting creators with possible customers.

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai says,

“Sony’s innovation is ingrained in the company’s founding spirit of `doing what has never been done before.’ Nothing embodies this spirit more than passionate entrepreneurs who give shape to their ground-breaking ideas and introduce them to the world, without fear of failure. The First Flight platform and other Seed Acceleration Program initiatives accelerate and optimize this process. Sony itself originated as a start-up, and through the Seed Acceleration Program we are challenging ourselves to return to our entrepreneurial roots. At Sony we will continue to explore ways of delivering new, emotionally compelling experiences and enhanced customer value.”

To help mark the public launch of First Flight, albeit only in Japan for now, two projects are in the e-commerce stage and one project has launched a crowdfunding effort to see whether there is enough interest. The first product available is MESH, which is described as a “smart DIY kit” to help users become inventors of their own gadgets. Through First Flight, interested consumers can also place an order for the FES Watch, an e-paper based smartwatch. Finally, crowdfunding has commenced for the e-paper based HUIS Remote Controller that will change based on what a user wants to control.

sony_first_flight_mesh
sony_first_flight_fes_watch
sony_first_flight_huis

source: Sony First Flight (site), Sony First Flight (press release)

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1
Jul

Sony has a new crowdfunding website for employee projects


Last year, Sony revealed a business program that encouraged employees to develop the most innovative ideas they can think of in an effort to find new hits. Now, the company has launched a crowdfunding and e-commerce platform called “First Flight” for products that come out of that project. While its main purpose is to raise funds for and sell Sony’s experimental creations, the company’s hoping it can also help connect it with audiences and gauge the public’s interest. For its debut, First Flight is selling two products, which were already crowdfunded through third-party websites in the past: an e-paper smartwatch and a small device called “Mesh” tag that can turn devices into connected gadgets.

It’s also scheduled to run a crowdfunding campaign for an e-paper remote control with a customizable display for six weeks. If you visit First Flight, you’ll see that it’s Japan-only for now, so you can’t buy or support any of its projects if you don’t live in the country. Sony didn’t say whether it plans to launch it Stateside or elsewhere either — we’ll just have to wait for its decision if the venture proves to be a success.

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Source: Sony, First Flight

30
Jun

Sony Xperia Z4 gets torn down to show pretty much the same story


Since the Sony Xperia Z3 was such a good well rounded device, the community had high expectation for the next iteration of the Xperia device, but Sony had other ideas in mind.

In some parts of the world it’s known as the Xperia Z4, in others the Xperia Z3+, but either way, it’s far from the upgrade we were expecting from Sony.

Either way, the device has been given the traditional tear down treatment, courtesy of witrigs.com, and is the model as found in Japan, so the official Xperia Z4.

One observation is that the components that were very much soldered together and hard to replace on the Z3 are now pretty easy to remove and repair, which is good news for home-DIY’ers. Everything else is pretty much as you’d expect, with the Snapdragon 810 processor taking pride of place, despite the overheating issues.

For full detail of the teardown, head over to the source.

SOURCE: Witrigs.com

The post Sony Xperia Z4 gets torn down to show pretty much the same story appeared first on AndroidGuys.

30
Jun

Sony upsets shareholders with image sensor plan


Sony-Chief-Executive-Kazuo-Hirai

Sony has decided to issue new shares. This is the first time since 1989 as part of a $3.6 billion capital raising plan to fund their imagine sensor business. Their image sensors are used in all major phones including Apple’s iPhone and Samsung Galaxy devices. They said they would raise ¥322 billion ($2.63 billion) by offering new shares and ¥120 billion by selling convertible bonds.

Shareholders were not impressed by the plan and showed so by selling their shares. Sony’s stock closed 8.25% lower that day.

Back in April Sony said it had virtually completed a restructuring and that there were strong sales of digital sensors. It’s projecting a operating profit would more than quadruple to ¥320 billion during the fiscal year ending March 2016.

Sony is miles ahead of the competition when it comes to image sensors. It’s big problem is capacity constraints in trying to reach large demand, especially in China, with all the new affordable headsets that are expected to continue to grow.

Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony Chief Financial Officer said in April that they plan on investing ¥210 billion in image sensors during the current fiscal year and ¥80 billion on camera modules.

Tatsunori Kawai, chief strategist at kabu.com Securities, said

 “The dilution threat is enough to cause short-selling today, but assuming the company uses the funds raised for pro-active purposes—and successfully—it could lead to share gains later,”

Yasuaki Kogure, chief investment officer at SBI Asset Management, said

“Raising cash to beef up the growing units is understandable, but it should do it via a bond offering or bank lending because Sony’s return on equity as a whole is still very low,” he said. “This reminds me of old-and-bad Japan—when companies issued new stock simply because prices were high, without considering damage to existing shareholders.”

Sony’s response was they aim at strengthening the company’s financial base so it can act promptly on necessary investments. That the bond offering will help bring in long term cash at a low cost.

In the past few months Sony has cut all the low profit pieces and is investing in it’s best earners being video games, movies, devices and music. However they haven’t ruled out exiting television or smart phones as it did with computers last year.

Source: WSJ

 

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30
Jun

Honor 7 & Meizu MX5 vs the competition


Huawei-Honor-7 (1)

Today not one but two Chinese manufacturers have announced new devices and both handsets are feature-rich at affordable price tags. Huawei’s e-commerce brand Honor has announced the Honor 7 while Meizu has announced the MX5, but how do these two handsets compare against each other and to the competition?

Honor 7 vs Meizu MX5

Before comparing these handsets to their rivals, let’s take a look at how they compare to each other. Both handsets adopt all-metal builds and while the Honor 7 has been influenced by the Ascend Mate 7, the MX5 is Meizu’s first switch to an all-metal design.

Last year’s Huawei phablet – the Ascend Mate 7 – certainly had an influence on the Honor 7

Both handsets offer Full HD displays but the 5.5-inch AMOLED screen on the MX5 is slightly larger than the 5.2-inch IPS display on the Honor 7, meaning it has a slightly lower display density of 401 pixels per inch (versus 424 ppi). Both handsets run on Android Lollipop, with Meizu adding Flyme 4.5 on top, while Huawei added its own Emotion UI v3.1 interface.

Huawei & Meizu in video:

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Switching to the camera, both handsets use Sony modules; the Meizu MX5 comes equipped with an IMX220 module that offers 20.7MP resolution, laser autofocus and 4K Ultra HD video recording while the Honor 7 uses an IMX230 module with 20MP resolution, Phase Detection autofocus, optical image stabilisation and, presumably, 4K Ultra HD video recording as well.

Up front the MX5 has a 5MP front camera with Full HD video while the Honor 7 has an 8MP selfie camera with Huawei’s Beauty Level feature built-in. Beneath the rear camera is where Huawei have added the fingerprint sensor on the Honor 7, which is a feature that’s missing from Meizu’s flagship.

Under the hood, both handsets have octa-core processors with the Meizu MX5 using the MediaTek Helio X10 Turbo CPU clocked at 2.2GHz and the Honor 7 using Huawei’s own Kirin 935 processor, also clocked at 2.2GHz. There’s also 3GB RAM on both handsets and the biggest difference comes in the storage options; the MX5 is available with either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB internal storage while the Honor 7 has either 16GB or 64GB storage.

The price of these handsets is where they may go on to challenge the established manufacturers: the MX5 costs roughly $290 for the 16GB model, while the 32GB costs approximately $322 and the 64GB comes in at $387. In comparison, the Honor 7 is available in three models: the lowest variant comes with 16GB internal storage and single SIM LTE for approx. $322, while the next version up offers the same storage and dual SIM 4G LTE for $354 and the top model offers 64GB storage and dual SIM LTE for $402.

The MX5 replaces Meizu’s previous flagship, the MX4

At these prices, both handsets are significantly cheaper than the competition and while it’s difficult to make in-depth comparisons until these devices arrive for review, let’s take a look at how they compare against the other major flagship handsets on the market.

Honor 7 & Meizu MX5 vs the competition

Like many Chinese companies, both Huawei and Meizu have attempted to challenge established devices by focusing on offering impressive specs with an even more impressive price tag.

they certainly have feature sets that will appeal to almost all users

Along with rival Chinese OEMs Gionee and Xiaomi, these companies have transformed the mid-range market by offering feature-rich smartphones at a price that belies belief. While they won’t have all the bells and whistles found on handsets that retail for almost double the price, they certainly have feature sets that will appeal to almost all users.

Let’s take a look at how the Meizu MX5 and Honor 7 specs compare vs the best from Samsung, LG, Sony and HTC.

Detail Honor 7 Meizu MX5 Sony Xperia Z3+ HTC One M9 Galaxy S6 LG G4
Hardware:
Display: 5.2 inch IPS
Full HD (1080×1920)
Density: 424ppi
5.5 inch AMOLED
Full HD (1080×1920)
Density: 401ppi
5.2 inch IPS
Full HD (1080×1920)
Density: 424ppi
5.0 inch Super LCD3
Full HD (1080×1920)
Density: 441ppi
5.1 inch Super AMOLED
Quad HD (1440×2560)
Density: 577ppi
5.5 inch IPS
Quad HD (1440×2560)
Density: 538ppi
Processor: Octa-core Kirin 930
4 x 2.2GHz + 4 x 1.5GHz
Octa-core Helio X10
8 x 2.2GHz
octa-core Snapdragon 810
4 x 2GHz + 4 x 1.5GHz
octa-core Snapdragon 810
4 x 2GHz + 4 x 1.5GHz
octa-core Exynos 7420
4 x 2.1GHz, 4 x 1.5GHz
hexa-core Snapdragon 808
2 x 1.82GHz, 4 x 1.44GHz
Storage: 16/64GB

Expandable: Yes

16/32/64GB

Expandable: TBC

32GB

Expandable: Yes

32GB

Expandable: Yes

32/64/128GB

Expandable: No

32GB

Expandable: Yes

RAM: 3GB 3GB 3GB 3GB 3GB 3GB
Build Type: Metal Metal Glass Aluminium Unibody Glass and metal Plastic front with Plastic or Leather rear
LTE: Cat 6 (300Mbps DL, 50Mbps UL) Cat 4 (150Mbps DL, 50Mbps UL) Cat 6 (300Mbps DL, 50Mbps UL) Cat 6 (300Mbps DL, 50Mbps UL) Cat 6 (300Mbps DL, 50Mbps UL) Cat 6 (300Mbps DL, 50Mbps UL)
Fingerprint Sensor: Yes No No No Yes No
SIM card Single/Dual SIM Single SIM Single SIM Single SIM Single SIM Single SIM
Software: Android 5.1
Emotion UI v3.1
Android 5.0
Flyme OS 4.5
Android 5.0
Sony UI
Android 5.0
HTC Sense 7
Android 5.0.2
TouchWiz UI
Android 5.1
LG G UX 4.0
Camera:
Sensor size: 20MP 20.7MP 20.7MP 20MP 16MP 16MP with color spectrum sensor
Autofocus: Phase Detection Laser Yes Yes Yes Laser
Optical Image Stabilisation: Yes No No No Yes Yes
Video: 1080p@60fps 1080p@60fps
2160p@30fps
1080p@60fps
2160p@30fps
1080p@60fps
2160p@30fps
1080p@60fps
2160p@30fps
1080p@60fps
2160p@30fps
Front camera: 8MP, video TBC 5MP, 1080p@30fps 5.1MP, 1080p@30fps 4MP Ultrapixel
1080p@30fps
5MP, 1440p@30fps 8MP, 1080p@30fps
Flash dual-LED (dual tone) dual-LED (dual tone) LED flash dual-LED (dual tone) LED flash LED flash
Battery:
Capacity: 3100mAh 3150mAh 2930 mAh 2840 mAh 2550mAh 3000 mAh
Fast Charging: 100% in 1 hour 25 mins
50% in 30 mins
mCharge
60% in 40 mins
Quick Charge 2.0
60% in 30 mins
Quick Charge 2.0
60% in 30 mins
Quick Charge 2.0
60% in 30 mins
None
Wireless Charging: No No No No Yes, PMA+Qi Optional

There you have it – the specs of the Honor 7 and Meizu MX5 certainly show that it’s possible to make a handset with the latest flagship specs at a price that’s anything but flagship. Of course the specs list only reveals a small part of the overall experience and we can’t comment on how good these handsets are until they arrive for review but the specs comparison certainly gives us food for thought.

What do you think of the specs of the Meizu MX5 and Honor 7 vs the competition? Which handset would you buy (if any)? Let us know your views in the comments below!

30
Jun

Sony to invest billions in its image sensor business


sony xperia z3 first impressions aa (14 of 17)

Sony’s mobile division has been having a tough time lately, but the company’s image sensors are still proving hugely popular in the smartphone and wider camera markets. In a bid to play to its strengths, Sony is looking to invest heavily in additional production capacity for mobile image sensors.

To raise the necessary funds for this expensive investment, Sony will be issuing new shares for the first time since 1989, which caused an 8.25 percent fall in Sony’s share price. The company is planning to raise around $3.6 billion through a combination of selling new shares and convertible bonds.

Of the total, much of the proceeds are earmarked for investment into additional production capacity for smartphone image sensors, such as those used in Apple and Samsung products, as well as its own handset line-up. Despite high demand for Sony’s cutting edge camera modules, its current production capacity is preventing the company from maximising its revenue.

In April, Sony Chief Financial Officer Kenichiro Yoshida stated that the company would be investing ¥210 billion in image sensors during the current fiscal year and ¥80 billion on camera modules. The company is also expected to more than quadruple its operating profit for the 2016 fiscal year, following a company-wide restructuring program and strong sales of digital sensors.

For Sony, this is part of a broader plan to focus on its strongest products – music, movies, gaming and device components. We will have to see what this means for the company’s struggling mobile hardware business in the coming years, especially as Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai hasn’t ruled out abandoning the market all together.

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