Skip to content

Archive for

1
Jul

‘Customer feedback’ forces Sprint to change streaming video policy for All-in plans


Citing “customer feedback”, Sprint will no longer limit streaming video speeds for its All-in rate plans. The new options, which were only announced one day ago, feature unlimited talk, text, and high-speed data. The problem, however, was that the fine print told a different story. It didn’t take long for the news to spread that Sprint had hidden away a very important detail.

As it turned out, Sprint was going to limit streaming video to a mere 600kbps. Indeed, that’s hardly “high speed” by today’s standard. And, when you think about it, much of what the average user relies on higher 4G speeds is for video. Facebook, messaging, and other stuff doesn’t require all that much of the connection.

“At Sprint, we strive to provide customers a great experience when using our network. We heard you loud and clear, and we are removing the 600 kbps limitation on streaming video.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure

While we have to admit Sprint was quick to act here this should not have been an issue to begin with. Further, we have to wonder what the carrier may do in the future as it pertains to the plan. The Sprint added a vague blurb about its network speeds.

During certain times, like other wireless carriers, we might have to manage the network in order to reduce congestion and provide a better customer experience for the majority of our customers.

Claure

Is this just leaving the door open to throttling services or apps?

Sprint

The post ‘Customer feedback’ forces Sprint to change streaming video policy for All-in plans appeared first on AndroidGuys.

Advertisements
1
Jul

OPPO officially confirms its Mirror 5s smartphone will launch soon


Oppo Mirror 5s

A few weeks ago, some leaked press images surfaced of the OPPO Mirror 5, showing off the unannounced device’s back, front and sides. It now looks like the device is graduating from its “rumor” status, because today the smartphone has been officially confirmed by the company.

It should be noted that in the teaser image, outed on OPPO Taiwan’s Facebook page earlier today, the device is actually called the “Mirror 5s”, not the “Mirror 5″ like we originally thought. No other details were given regarding specifications or pricing information, so it looks like the rumored specs will have to tide us over until the phone is announced.

Previous rumors suggest that the Mirror 5s will feature 2GB of RAM, 16GB of on-board storage, a rear-facing camera with OPPO’s Pure Image 2.0+ interface, as well as a 5MP front-facing camera with Beautify 3.0 enhancements. The device may also run OPPO’s custom Color OS software atop Android 5.1 Lollipop, and will also feature a mirrored back panel with a unique diamond pattern. Other rumored specs include a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, a 5.0-inch display with 1280×720 resolution and a 2420mAh battery.

The image posted by the company teases that the device is coming soon, though GSMArena reports that it might not launch until the second week in July. We’ll be sure to let you know when we hear anything more about the OPPO Mirror 5s.

1
Jul

Deal: Listen to your music worry-free with the Mighty Floating Bluetooth Speaker for only $35


004ccdd613ff170b7782dc5a66428912686a26e7_main_hero_image

Looking for an easy, inexpensive way to listen to your music outdoors? Look no further than the Mighty Floating Bluetooth Speaker – currently being offered for 56% off in the AA Deals Store.

So, what’s so special about this speaker? This durable little device will not only provide up to six hours of music playback on a single charge, but can also be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. It easily pairs with any Bluetooth-enabled device, and features a durable build that’s waterproof, dustproof and sand-proof. If you don’t want to bring it outside with you, though, the Mighty Floating Bluetooth Speaker can also easily attach to your shower or any other flat surface in your home.

Right now, you can pick up the Mighty Floating Bluetooth Speaker from the Android Authority Deals Store for just $35… that’s a massive 56% off the suggested retail price! If you’re interested, be sure to head to the link below for more information.

Get this deal now

1
Jul

HTC is giving Verizon customers a $100 Google Play credit with new purchase of HTC M9


htc-one-m9

Earlier today, LG announced a pretty sweet promotion for the LG G4 that makes an already great handset even more compelling. Not wanting to be upstaged, HTC has now announced a new promotion of its own, in partnership with Verizon. The new offer will give you $100 of Google Play credit when you purchase the Verizon version of the HTC One M9.

While LG’s promotion is only good for July, Verizon and HTC want to make sure you have enough time to take advantage of their offer, running it from now until August. The timing of the HTC promotion makes it perfect as a back to school option for those students looking for a new smartphone before school starts.

.rvs_wrapper
width: 350px;

.rvs_wrapper.align_left
float: left;

.rvs_wrapper.align_right
float: right;

.rvs_wrapper.align_center,
.rvs_wrapper.align_none
width: 100%;

.rvs_wrapper.align_center
text-align: center;

.rvs_wrapper.align_center.cbc-latest-videos ul li
float: none;
display: inline-block;
vertical-align: top;

.rvs_wrapper.cbc-latest-videos:not(.align_none) ul li:nth-child(2n+1)
clear: both;

.rvs_title
font-weight: 600 !important;
margin: 0 !important;
font-size: 24px !important;

.rvs_wrapper.align_right .rvs_title
padding-left: 20px;

.rvs_title a
font-family: ‘Roboto Condensed’;
color: #3a3a3a;

.rvs_wrapper.cbc-latest-videos ul
padding-top: 10px;

.rvs_wrapper.align_left.cbc-latest-videos ul li,
.rvs_wrapper.align_none.cbc-latest-videos ul li
padding: 0 15px 0 0;

.rvs_wrapper.align_right.cbc-latest-videos ul li
padding: 0 0 0 15px;
float: right;

.rvs_wrapper.align_center.cbc-latest-videos ul li
padding: 0 7px;

.rvs_wrapper.cbc-latest-videos ul li > a
font-weight: 400;

.rvs_wrapper.cbc-latest-videos ul li > a .yt-thumbnail
margin-bottom: 0;

@media only screen and (max-width : 480px)
.rvs_wrapper
width: 100%;
text-align: center;

body .rvs_wrapper.cbc-latest-videos ul li
padding: 0 7px;
display: inline-block;
float: none;
vertical-align: top;

For those that need the refresher, the HTC One M9 is powered by a Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB of RAM and Adreno 430 GPU. Other specs include a 5-inch 1080p display, 32GB storage with microSD, 20MP rear cam, Ultrapixel front cam, and a 2840 mAh battery.

To get your $100 credit, visit the promo website and follow the on-screen instructions. Note that HTC will need the IMEI number found on your box and a copy of the receipt. This process must be completed by September 30 and you must be a resident of the US.

Still not sure if the HTC One M9 is right for you? be sure to check out our full review! For those that are ready to buy, you’ll want to visit Verizon’s website.

1
Jul

Moto 360 price drops permanently to $149 through Motorola and the Google Store


moto_360_its_time

Moving forward, the Moto 360 will cost less from two of its sellers. Both Motorola and the Google Store have knocked the starting price of the smartwatch down to $149, a drop of $100 compared to the launch price. This, however, is not just a sale or temporary discount. The price of the Moto 360 through Motorola and the Google Store is permanently $149 to start.

This price drop could indicate that a successor to last year’s model is one the way. Based on Motorola’s current release cycle, the new Moto 360 should arrive in late August or early September. Until then, an Android Wear device at this price is quite the steal.

[Google Store] [Motorola]

Come comment on this article: Moto 360 price drops permanently to $149 through Motorola and the Google Store

1
Jul

UKarbon skin review


UKarbon LGG3 (10)

When it comes to protecting our smartphones and tablets from scratches, many of us choose to put them in cases that all too often both hide the design of the device and add a fair amount of heft to them. There are other options though, one of them being from UKarbon, a company based in the United Kingdom that offers a protective skin made of carbon fibre textured vinyl. UKarbon offer skins designed to protect your smartphone, tablet, laptop, gaming console or even your Beats headphones from scratches as well as enhancing the item’s appearance.

I was lucky enough to receive a skin to review on my LG G3 from Harry Hextall, who along with Tom Summerfield, runs UKarbon whilst completing university.

U-Karbon LG G3 (24)

Like many, I’ve shied away from protective skins before because of the difficulties experienced when installing screen protectors on my devices. I’ve always believed that if I found it difficult installing one piece of plastic to a flat screen; how would I manage the task of applying a skin? As you can see from the images though, I managed to install the UKarbon skin on my G3, and if I do say so myself, I think I did a pretty good job.

The skin material is premium grade textured PVC vinyl and is just 0.2mm thick, so you can barely tell anything is on the device at all. The advanced adhesive enables a bubble-free finish, unlike when I install a screen protector. Another feature to be appreciated is that if you choose to remove the UKarbon skin, there will be no residue left behind on your device. The skin also has a weave pattern to it that is quite comforting to the touch.

To begin the process, I made sure the G3 was clean, using a wet wipe first to remove the dirt before using a lint-free cloth to dry it off. With the handset now clear from dust and fingerprints, I sorted out my tools for applying the skin – a pair of flat tweezers and a hairdryer. Yes, a hairdryer. That comes in useful at the end of the process.

UKarbon LGG3 (4)

The UKarbon skin for the G3 came with multiple parts to cover the battery panel, the top and bottom bezels on the front of the device, as well as bits to protect the volume button and the ring around the camera lens on the rear.

I started off with the pieces to protect the top and bottom bezels on the front, which I thought would be easiest to begin with. It turned out it was fairly easy to remove the protective coverings from the wax paper, and the trickiest bit was aligning the top piece with the sensors. It turned out pretty well on the first attempt, and so I progressed to the volume and camera pieces. Again, whilst being attentive to detail, the process went as planned. If I was being picky, I guess I could do with reapplying the protective ring around the camera, it is just ever-so-slightly off-center. But then, with my clumsiness, I could just as easily make it worse so I’m happy with it as is. To be honest, I’ve only just seen it at the time of writing, so it’s been like that for a few weeks without my noticing.

UKarbon LGG3 (9)
UKarbon LGG3 (8)
UKarbon LGG3 (1)

Now for the tricky part – the rear panel. Because the G3 has rounded edges, the skin is perhaps a little trickier to apply than on say a Sony Xperia Z3 with its flat surfaces. After lining things up nicely with the LED flash and the Laser Auto Focus sensor, I laid the skin down and smoothed it over. This is where I needed the hairdryer, because of the before mentioned round edges of the G3; some gentle heat is required to help the skin fit snugly instead of flapping in the wind. Enter the hairdryer, and after a few seconds on its lowest heat setting, I could smooth the edges down with my fingertips. The result speaks for itself.

U-Karbon LG G3 (28)
U-Karbon LG G3 (26)
U-Karbon LG G3 (25)

I should point out that UKarbon have some very handy installation videos to watch for tips on how to achieve a great result. I should also point out that I decided to ignore the video guides until after I installed the skin, just to see how difficult it was. As a result, I would say that while you do need to concentrate while applying the skin, it isn’t unduly difficult. I would actually go so far as to say it was an easier process than applying a screen protector.

Now we come to the business end of the review. I’ve had the UKarbon skin on my G3 for almost a month now, and colour me impressed. The skin is in just as good a condition as it was when it was first applied. Dare I say that my G3 looks somewhat cooler than it did before, and it definitely feels better, more tactile. The skin has added much need grip to the G3, I wish I had bought one for my old G2 that had all the characteristics of a wet bar of soap. Do I recommend it? That’s a tough question, but I would say yes, with one caveat. If your job entails you doing physical work out and about, then while the UKarbon skin will protect your phone from scratches, it won’t protect it from the shock of being dropped on the floor. That being said, I have found that the case I have for the G3 slips comfortably on and off the handset with the UKarbon skin applied with no discernible impact.

 

UKarbon LGG3 (6)

So, how much will a UKarbon skin cost for your device? Well, it varies depending on which device you are ordering for. If you were to choose the full set of skins for your LG G3, it will set you back £14.99. You can choose to order only the front protection for £6.99 or the rear for £10.99. My skin was the standard carbon fibre design, but you can choose between Champagne Carbon, Dark Wood, Dark Leather, Orange Peel, Polar White or Signature Red. You can even send your custom designs for UKarbon to produce so your device can be even more personalised.

Handily enough, UKarbon is currently having a promotion where, if you enter the code UK25 into the relevant box while checking out, you will receive a 25% discount. International orders are more than welcome, with free shipping if your order comes to £14.99 or more, if you are in the States it roughly translates to $23.50.

[UKarbon]

Come comment on this article: UKarbon skin review

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

Comments

1
Jul

Swedish media house buys world’s largest eSports company


Professional gaming is a hot item in the investment world right now and even the largest eSports organizations are getting in on the action. On Wednesday, international entertainment company MTG purchased ESL, the largest eSports organization in the world. MTG spent 78 million euros ($86.4 million) for a majority stake — 74 percent — in ESL’s holding company, Turtle Entertainment GmbH. This deal marks the first acquisition of an eSports company by a traditional media organization.

ESL regularly hosts high-profile tournaments for professional players across games including Battlefield 4, Halo, Dota 2, Counter-Strike, StarCraft 2, Mortal Kombat and Hearthstone. Jens Hilgers founded the company in 2000 and he will remain on ESL’s management team, alongside both of the company’s managing directors and the inventor of the ESL Play platform, Jan Philipp Reining.

“ESports is fast becoming one of the most watched and passionately followed global sports categories amongst younger audiences,” MTG President and CEO Jørgen Madsen Lindemanns says. “There are now almost as many gamers in the world as traditional sports fans, and eSports is already bigger than ice hockey. However, the average revenue generated per eSports enthusiast in 2014 was just over $2, compared to $56 for traditional sports enthusiasts, so this global phenomenon has tremendous potential.”

[Image credit: ESL]

Filed under: Gaming, HD

Comments

1
Jul

Half-Life 2 and other hit games released for SHIELD


The NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV console, which was designed to do more than stream Android TV, has announced that four new gaming titles joined its library today.  The titles are Half-Life 2; Episode 2, Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut, Never Alone, and Funk of Titans.  The major hit of these four titles is Half-Life 2 which has a large fan-base from its PC series.

Here is a description of each app from NVIDIA’s blog;

Half-Life 2, Episode Two

Half-Life 2, Episode Two, is the second critically-acclaimed followup to Valve’s Half Life 2.

As Dr. Gordon Freeman, you were last seen exiting City 17 with Alyx Vance as the Citadel erupted amid a storm of unknown proportions. In Episode Two, you must battle Combine forces as you traverse the White Forest to deliver crucial information stolen from the Citadel to fellow resistance scientists.  Episode Two introduces new weapons, vehicles, and newly-spawned creatures.

Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut

From Trendy Entertainment, Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut is the definitive version of the brain-twisting first-person puzzler. Using special high-tech gloves to manipulate cubes, the player solves an array of conundrums – from physics-based challenges to 3D jigsaws to platform-based trials.

Never Alone

The Iñupiat, an Alaska Native people, collaborated with Never Alone’s developers to create an atmospheric puzzle platform that draws from one of their traditional stories.

Guide characters in single-player mode or play with a friend as you trek through frozen tundra, leap across treacherous ice floes, swim through underwater caverns and face enemies both strange and familiar.

Never Alone is on over 75 “Best of 2014″ lists, and winner of “Best Debut Game” at the 2015 BAFTA Games Awards as well as “Game of the Year” and “Most Significant Impact” at the 2015 Games for Change Awards. Nearly 40 Alaska Native elders, storytellers and community members contributed to the making of the game.

You’ll explore awe-inspiring environments, perform heroic deeds, and meet legendary characters from Iñupiaq stories — all narrated by a master storyteller in the Iñupiaq language.

Funk of Titans

Funk of Titans is a thrilling and addictive game. It’s simple to play but hard to master.

You control Perseus, the son of Zeus and protector of the legendary holy music known as the Funk.  Run through ancient Greek mythology, risk your life jumping over crazy platforms, collect funk vinyl, beat enemies, wear epic costumes, ride the Pegasus and smash the rap, the pop and the rock of the evil Musical Titans in fierce dance battles.

Only one music can survive. And the Funk is the music of the gods.

 

The SHIELD Android TV already has over 100 high-quality games like the ones listed above dedicated to their device, and is also compatible with over 200 games from the Google Play store.

 

 

The post Half-Life 2 and other hit games released for SHIELD appeared first on AndroidGuys.

1
Jul

CyanogenMod team hints Gello, a customizable Chromium-based browser


The CynaogenMod team appears to be working on a Chromium-based browser named Gello, built with customization in mind. This information comes to us from team member Joey Rizzoli’s Google+ post via Android Police.

Within Rizzoli’s post is a 14-second trailer demonstrating the current build of Gello. While these features necessarily won’t make it to the final release, the video shows us those such as:

  • a “save for offline” reading mode
  • a customized interface, which includes tab animations and management
  • Night mode and immersive modes
  • Site-by-site privacy and security settings, including an integrated ad blocker possibly
  • Download settings that allow the user to rename files and choose file paths

The post CyanogenMod team hints Gello, a customizable Chromium-based browser appeared first on AndroidGuys.

%d bloggers like this: