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17
Feb

How to turn off Google Chrome desktop notifications – CNET


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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

I recently decided to switch from Google Chrome to Mozilla Firefox. No reason, I just felt like it was time to mix it up. I started using Firefox as my main browser, but I kept Chrome installed and occasionally running.

A few days into the switch, I noticed that I was getting frequent Facebook notifications in the lower right corner of my screen — little pop-ups that were, quite frankly, very annoying. I went into Facebook to try to turn them off. No luck. I went into Windows 10’s Settings menu and Action Center to try to turn them off. Again…no luck. Where the heck were they coming from?

Ah. Google Chrome. Because Google Chrome notifications will never die, even when you’re not actively using the browser, apparently. (Just kidding, Google Chrome was set to run in the background on my PC — here’s how to stop that from happening.)

Here’s how to get rid of Google Chrome’s desktop notifications:

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

1. Open Google Chrome and click the settings menu (three bars) in the upper right corner. Choose Settings from the drop-down menu.

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

2. At the bottom of the screen, click Show advanced settings…

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

3. Under Privacy click Content settings…

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

4. A pop-up window will appear. Under Notifications, choose Do not allow any site to show notifications if you want to block all notifications.

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

If you want to block a specific site’s notifications, click Manage exceptions…and find the site you want to block. Click the site to select it, and choose Block from the drop-down menu under the Behavior column.

5. Click Done to save your settings.

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17
Feb

How to stop Google Chrome from running in the background – CNET


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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Guess what? The Google Chrome browser doesn’t always close completely when you exit out of the last Chrome window. Sometimes — depending on the add-ons and extensions you have installed — the browser continues to run in the background, popping up notifications and allowing people in Google Hangouts to chat with you.

You might think this is pretty handy; maybe you want to get Facebook notifications when you have no browser windows open. Or you might think this is annoying, in which case, here’s how you can fix it:

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

1. Open up Google Chrome and check your taskbar. Find the small Chrome icon and click it.

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

2. A menu will pop up. Find Let Google Chrome run in the background and click it to uncheck it.

To turn it back on, you’ll need to go into Google Chrome’s settings.

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

1. Open up Google Chrome and click the menu icon (three bars) in the upper right corner of the window. Choose Settings from the drop-down menu.

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

2. Go to the bottom of the screen and click Show advanced settings…

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

3. Under System, check the box next to Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed to reactivate this feature.

17
Feb

VarageSale is a an online community looking for its citizens (review)


Overview

If you’re reading this review, you’ve probably been there: you’ve posted something for sale on Craigslist. After a bit of time, you get a hit; someone has messaged you and want to meet to deal. So after some back-and-forth, you agree on a place and time. You show up, wait 45 minutes, and the other party is a no-show. For a few of us, the other party does show and the ensuing exchange is anything from uncomfortable to seemingly dangerous.

Public sites like Craigslist have been great for personal re-sale, but they leave their users vulnerable to misleading or downright nefarious humans looking to take advantage of a situation.

The app VarageSale looks to solve this vulnerability. They do this by creating a more closed community of members in a small geographical area, using their Facebook accounts to verify identity as well as giving other members a preview of who they’re dealing with.

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Setup

To gain access to the community, there a few steps involved:

Download the app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
Choose your community(ies) by local area (using your zip code). Generally each community gives themselves a cute/clever name.
Setup your account, including name and email.
Link your Facebook account.  As stated, this allows other members to confirm you are who you say your are, and gives others a profile pic to see who they’re dealing with. Per the app, they do not post anything to your Facebook account.

Daily Use

Using the app works a lot like most other resale websites in that various items are listed by individual community Screenshot_2016-02-14-15-08-20members, with usually a photo, title, and price listed.

The app uses flat design, with the listings that look and scroll down a lot like Google Now cards. That is to say the design is clean, with enough color and shape to give a great and welcoming aesthetic.

For each listing you can share with others (via Facebook, email, or other), comment on the item, or click the “Interested” button, which contacts the seller and saves it for your later viewing.  Once you contact the seller and negotiate the price and meeting time/place, off you go to complete the transaction.
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In my short truncated experienced with the app, the biggest hurdle to user happiness is currently the dearth of users in a given community, and therefore the variety of items to find.

For every item of a given category in my chosen community in VarageSale, you can find 10-20 of a similar item on the big boys like Craigslist or eBay. Also, the range of items seems to be very limited, mostly to second-hand clothing and crafty, Etsy-type stuff.

Given my particular area of residence, downright rural compared to those living in a bigger cities like Chicago, but still the lack of people and stuff was off-putting for me.

It’s analogous to patronizing a local store instead of going across the street to Target. Yes, it feels good to be doing business with someone you know who is local, but did you find what you really wanted? And how did you do on price?

Conclusion

The vitality of any community, virtual or otherwise, is defined by the engagement of its citizens. While VarageSale is really a great idea to solve the potential problems of the public re-sale sites, the greatest hurdle for this and other such apps is traction amongst their potential user base. Right now the question is, “why use VarageSale when Craigslist has so much more to look at?”. The tipping point will be when that question gets reversed.

17
Feb

Mattel View-Master 2.0 Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


Mattel’s View-Master was reborn as a virtual reality accessory for phones last fall. The snap-on plastic goggles — which are compatible with Google’s Cardboard VR platform — are enough of a success to become the first VR accessory to land a spot at Apple retail stores. But now the sequel is already on deck: View-Master 2.0 is slated for release this fall. I got to check it out ever-so-quickly at the New York Toy Fair this week.

Mattel’s newest version of View-Master VR is pretty similar, with a few key tweaks. The new version finally works with headphones (the current $30 View-Master has a kid-friendly plastic casing, but lacks a headphone jack…which makes them less than ideal for watching VR films on the go). And a new binocular-like focus dial means the goggles adjust to a wider range of vision.

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View-Master 2.0…and headphones.


Scott Stein/CNET

Sounds great, but they’re also more expensive: $40. And the new View-Master still has the same flaw as the old one: it won’t fit over my glasses. This is one of the few VR headsets that won’t play nicely with my glasses at all. I don’t know how it works with all glasses, but mine aren’t all that huge. It means, sadly, that View-Master won’t be for me.

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Why can’t these fit on me…


Scott Stein/CNET

View-Master works with all Android and iPhone VR content, because it’s a Google Cardboard-ready headset. Mattel’s making more of its own View-Master content, too, plus diving into some funky game ideas. A $20 “Escape the Labyrinth” set for View-Master will include puzzles and games so two people can play at once. One wears VR, and the other solves puzzles. It’s like a kid version of “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” on Samsung Gear VR.

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“Escape the Labyrinth” — shades of “The Witness.”


Scott Stein/CNET

This all comes as Google is rumored to be developing a more robust VR platform than Cardboard. In the meantime, though, be it kids or adults — at least those without glasses — this looks to be a more durable Cardboard viewer than the paper ones out there.

Maybe I’ll switch to contacts.

17
Feb

Mattel ThingMaker Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


I don’t 3D print anything. I’ve never been tempted to. The printers are gigantic, they smell like weird melted plastic, and they take forever. I don’t know where to buy spools of material. I’m lazy. But maybe I just need guidance.

I do remember making little rubber insect toys as a kid, and so did one of my colleagues: it was called Creepy Crawlers, or ThingMaker. It was an old Mattel brand. And now that’s been rebooted as a 3D printer, coming out for $300 this fall. (International availability is unclear, but that roughly translates to £209 or AU$421.)

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ThingMaker and some of its spools.


Scott Stein/CNET

ThingMaker is a collaboration with Autodesk. That company, best known for 3D design software such as AutoCAD, 3ds Max and Maya, helped design the printer and its associated app for Mattel in the same way that Google worked with Mattel on its View-Master VR toy. And the message is simple: Mattel wants to make 3D printing as easy for your kids — and maybe for you — as building things out of Legos.

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Pieces are meant to pop together and interconnect.


Scott Stein/CNET

Dream it up, pop it out

It doesn’t look like ThingMaker is significantly different than most 3D printers, but it does have an iOS and Android app designed to be kid-friendly. That’s already available, and it’s intended to help introduce concepts of design, making toys and other ideas that can be exported into 3D printer-ready files.

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A kid-friendly design app (you can download it now).


Scott Stein/CNET

ThingMaker prints using spools of PLA (polylactic acid), a common biodegradable thermoplastic used by many 3D printers. It will possibly come with one or two spools of PLA, but it’s not clear what specific types of materials it will be compatible with. Mattel showed a few types of printed samples using softer rubber-like plastics, glow-in-the-dark plastic and plastic that turns colors in daylight.

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Some sample printed heads.


Scott Stein/CNET

The toys ThingMaker prints are meant to interlock using ball-and-joint construction, making a line of interchangeable building blocks. Yes, these toys seem abstract and simple compared to big-name brand toys. A toy scorpion-crab thing sitting on Mattel’s demo desk looked cool, Note, however, that bigger projects can take up to 10 hours to print.

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Snazzy scorpion.


Scott Stein/CNET

But ultimately, none of those caveats matter for a product like this. This is for kids who are burgeoning “makers,” looking to experiment with fun DIY projects and maybe learn a thing or two about 3D design along the way. Ultimately, if Mattel (and AutoDesk) can deliver approachable software and make sure that the spools of material remains reasonably affordable (think: printer ink), it may have a winner on its hands.

And the $300 starting point means that plenty of adults who have long been curious about 3D printing may be taking the plunge on this “toy,” too.

17
Feb

Acer Chromebook R11 review – CNET


The Good Acer’s Chromebook R 11 is an inexpensive tablet-laptop hybrid, coupling the simplicity of Google’s Chrome OS with a 360-degree hinge and touchscreen.

The Bad Unfortunately, Chrome OS isn’t optimized for touch, and navigating around the browser with your finger can be tricky. There aren’t as many apps available for Google’s Chrome OS as you’ll find on Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s OS X.

The Bottom Line Acer’s Chromebook R 11 has a neat hybrid design and the price is right, but simpler, non-touch devices offer better value.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

A Chromebook’s job is difficult. It has to be inexpensive, which inevitably means you can’t expect too much. But it also needs to stand out in a market that’s crowded by dirt cheap competition.

The Acer Chromebook R 11 makes the most of an unexciting situation. With a base price of $279 (that’s about £195 or AU$395), it’s a budget-priced lightweight device with a touchscreen display and 360-degree hinge that folds all the way back to form a chunky tablet. There isn’t much else in the way of pizzazz or substance here, but if you’re just looking to get online, the extra flourish from the rotating display helps Acer’s Chromebook stand out, and perhaps makes it more practical for sharing videos or presentations with a small group.

Take a closer look at the Acer Chromebook…
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Design and Features

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Nate Ralph/CNET

The Chromebook R 11 has an 11.6-inch display, with a lowly 1,366×768-pixel resolution. That low resolution disappoints, but it’s right in line with most of the Chromebook ecosystem. It’s also an IPS display, which means that colors look especially nice, and the contrast in photos and videos holds up when you tilt the screen back or forward, or sit off axis.

Reflections can be problematic, though. I spent a lot of time working outside, at the periphery of my apartment’s Wi-Fi radius. Finding a spot where the sun’s light wasn’t an obstacle proved tougher than keeping a steady connection. The view was generally fine indoors, though, so it’s not exactly a deal-breaker.

The display is also a touchscreen. That’s a neat feature for a budget device, but the Chromebook R 11 runs Chrome OS, based on the Google Chrome browser, which isn’t optimized for touch. Leaving the touchscreen off altogether might have saved a bit more on the price, but that would’ve sacrificed the 360-degree hinge — the Chromebook R 11’s major selling point.

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Nate Ralph/CNET

I’m not convinced a Chromebook needs the hinge. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t work: The Chromebook R 11 slides effortlessly from the standard laptop shape into an arm-friendly tablet mode, ideal for scrolling through webpages. And when switching from one mode to the next, the Chrome browser will smartly transform from the standard window to a fullscreen mode that takes up the entire display. It’s a smooth transition, reminiscent of Windows 10’s Continuum.

Design cues from the hybrid-laptop space are making their way to budget devices, but Chrome OS is still based on a desktop browser, and making the browser full screen doesn’t make it any easier to navigate bookmarks, or scoot around websites designed to be clicked with a mouse.

17
Feb

BLU Vivo XL review


BLU, the Florida-based device manufacturer, boasts a robust smartphone portfolio with a common aspect all these phones share being their budget-friendly nature. Continuing to add to their lineup, BLU unveiled two more affordable smartphones last month at CES 2016, with the cheaper of the already low-cost phones being the BLU Vivo XL. Of course, very affordable devices has been the point of focus for a lot of Android OEMs over the past year, so does BLU manage to stand out with their latest offering? We find out, in this comprehensive BLU Vivo XL review!

Buy now from Best Buy

Design

The Vivo XL is certainly one of BLU’s flashier options to date, with a patterned finish on the removable back cover, with gold being the color version of this particular review unit. Whether you like the look depends entirely on your personal opinion, and there is another touch more subtle color option available as well, but it has to be said that the glossy plastic backing and matte finish edges allow for an excellent feel in the hand. However, the plastic rear cover does seem to be prone to scratches, so you may have to depend on a protective case to keep the device in a pristine condition. Luckily, the Vivo XL does come with a case in the box.

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Taking a look around the device, the power button and volume rocker are on the right side, and all the buttons offer a reasonable amount of tactile feedback. Capacitive navigation keys are found below the display up front, but in a rather strange move BLU switched the positions of the back and the Recent Apps keys. This might take some getting used to depending on what device you’re coming from. There is also a multi-colored LED at the top left above the display, and the headphone jack and USB-Type C port are found up top and at the bottom respectively.

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BLU has also done a great job with keeping the bezels around the display and the top portion and bottom chin quite thin, making for a more manageable handling experience than its 5.5-inch display would suggest. Build quality hasn’t always been particularly good when it comes to devices that fall in the sub-$150 category, but that is also something that is slowly changing, especially with the Vivo XL. Despite its plastic construction, the device certainly doesn’t feel cheap, and the solid construction allows for a great feel while holding the phone.

Display

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The Vivo XL comes with a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 267ppi. The pixel count may not be the highest out there, and while a higher display resolution would have been nice, 720p does make sense at this price point – the main advantages of the display are clearly shown off in the battery life department. The display experience is actually also really good as well, with the AMOLED panel allowing for high contrast and punchy, saturated colors. Overall, the display of the Vivo XL is certainly one of the best we’ve seen in this price range, despite its lower resolution.

Performance and hardware

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Under the hood, the Vivo XL comes with an octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor, clocked at 1.3GHz and backed by the Mali-T720 GPU and 2GB of RAM. The performance of the Vivo XL has been good for the most part, with the device handling tasks with ease the majority of the time. However, there were some instances where the phone would generally feel sluggish, particularly when opening or switching between applications via the Recent Apps screen.

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As far as gaming is concerned, the device is able to handle casual games with no trouble, but you will see some frame drops with more graphically-intensive games. That said, the Vivo XL is still a decent option for mobile gamers on a tight budget.

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16 gigabytes is the only in-built storage option available with the Vivo XL, but you do get expandable storage via microSD card by up to 64GB to alleviate any concerns. The device also comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, as well as dual-SIM capabilities. You also get full 4G LTE support on the T-Mobile network, and nearly full support on AT&T. We were able to test this review unit on T-Mobile’s extended range LTE network (band 12) and experienced excellent connectivity. If you are on AT&T however, you may be missing out on LTE coverage in some rural areas, with the device lacking band 5 support.

huawei mate 8 review aa (18 of 34)See also: Best dual-SIM Android phones (January 2016)62

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The single rear speaker of the device offers a decent audio experience, but a bump in volume and a reduction in the distortion would have certainly been appreciated. That said, it is still about average for the price, and will certainly get the job done in most situations. BLU made the switch to USB Type-C with the Vivo XL, which is a very welcome, but slightly inconvenient move. You will now have to remember to carry around the charger if you need to top up the battery on the go, but the adoption of the latest standard is certainly good to see, especially with a budget smartphone.

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The good news is that having to carry around the charger may not be required at all, with the 3,150mAh unit of Vivo XL offering excellent battery life, aided by the lower resolution display and power-efficient processing package. On average, the device would comfortably last a full day of use, if not more, with around 5.5 hours of screen-on time, and that can also be pushed to up to 6 hours with slightly lighter usage. Of course, if battery life does prove to be a concern, the battery is removable, and you always have the option of carrying around a spare.

blu-life-one-x-vs-moto-g (1)See also: Best cheap Android phones (January 2016)328

Camera

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The BLU Vivo XL comes with a 13MP rear camera with phase detection auto focus and an LED flash, along with a front-facing 5MP unit. The camera performs just about as expected from a device that falls in the price range, and does quite well in ideal lighting conditions, resulting in images that are very sharp and with a lot of detail, as well as with a respectable amount of dynamic range. However, with noticeable aliasing in some images, occasional color reproduction errors, and poor low light capabilities, this camera certainly won’t outperform those found on more expensive smartphones.

As far as the camera app is concerned, the interface is quite simplistic, with ease of use being the focus here. There is a Professional Mode available though, that allows for more granular control over aspects like ISO and shutter speed. There are also a slew of other modes and features built in, but taking pictures in the normal Auto Mode is what works more than well enough in most instances.

Software

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On the software side of things, the BLU Vivo XL is running Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, with a custom skin on top. The software experience BLU offers with their smartphones has been quite fragmented across the board, but in the case of the Vivo XL, a much improved and more polished iteration is to be found. Of course, staple Android features like an app drawer and lock screen notifications are missing, but the overall experience still feels much better than what is seen with some other devices BLU’s portfolio.

In other changes from stock Android, the Quick Toggles in the notification dropdown have also been completely done away with, in favor of an Apple-esque Control Center. Many of the system UI elements are also strong deviations from stock Android, which may be disappointing for some enthusiasts. There are a few third-party apps pre-installed as well, but all of these can easily be uninstalled.

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As far as software updates go, BLU has been attempting to do a better job in offering timely updates for their smartphones, but we’ll have to wait and see if and when an official update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow will be made available for the Vivo XL. That said, if running the latest versions of Android is important to you, BLU smartphones may not be the way to go anyway.

Specifications

Display5.5-inch AMOLED display with 1280 x 720 resolution
267 ppi
Processor1.3GHz octa-core Mediatek MT6753
GPUMali-T720
RAM2GB
Storage16GB, microSD expansion up to 64 GB
Camera13MP rear camera
5MP front camera
ConnectivityWi-Fi a/b/g/n, GPS, Bluetooth v4.0, Hotspot, Type C-USB, FM Radio, VoLTE
Battery3,150mAh, non-removable
SoftwareAndroid 5.1 Lollipop
Dimensions155.2 x 76.6 x 7.5mm
154 grams
ColorsSolid Gold, Chrome Silver, Midnight Blue, Rose Gold

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Pricing and final thoughts

The BLU Vivo XL will be available for $149 from Best Buy, with the color options included being Solid Gold or Midnight Blue. If you have made up your mind about picking up this device, you may want to do so before January 31st, with BLU running a three day sale that brings the price of the device down to just $99.

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So there you have it for this in-depth look at the BLU Vivo XL! The Vivo XL may have its issues low-end processing package, and mediocre camera. The device does also get a lot right though, with AMOLED technology more than making up for the low resolution, its excellent battery life, and the fact that users will have access to the 4G LTE networks in the US, which are all great reasons to pick up this budget-friendly phone. As mentioned, you also get to take advantage of a sale following its launch, so if you have decided to to buy this phone, now would be the best time to do so. What are your thoughts? Is the Vivo XL worth the money? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Buy now from Best Buy

More BLU smartphones

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    BLU Pure XL Review

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    BLU Vivo Air LTE Review

17
Feb

honor 5X review


There may have not been a lot of high-profile Android device releases at this year’s CES, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t anything for consumers to get excited about. In particular, the latest smartphone offering from honor joins the ever growing list of smartphones that fall in the “premium but affordable” category, and continues to push the boundaries for what is expected from a device with a sub-$200 price tag.

  • honor 5X first look
  • honor 5X coming to the US for $199.99
  • Best cheap Android phones

The great news here is that with the honor 5X seeing an official release in the US, users don’t have to worry about compatibility with US network carriers, or any costs that are otherwise associated with importing these devices. What else does the latest budget-friendly offering from honor bring to the table? We find out, in this comprehensive honor 5X review!

Buy now from Amazon
Editor’s note: We have confirmed with honor that the 5X in fact comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor, not a 615. The review has been updated accordingly.

Design

As mentioned, the honor 5X blurs the lines when it comes to what we generally expect from a device at this price point, and that starts with its design and build quality, with the phone featuring a metal unibody construction. The brushed metal build allows for a premium look and feel that you will be hard-pressed to find with other budget-friendly smartphones, but it has to be mentioned that the metal does make the phone quite slippery. Unfortunately, the metal is not of the highest grade either, making the body prone to scratches, and something you will have to be cautious about when handling it.

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While even the sides are made of metal, the top and bottom of the phone is made from plastic, but honor has done a great job of making that something that is not particularly noticeable just by looking at it. The power button and volume rocker are on the right side, and offer a good amount of tactile feedback. The buttons also feature a grippy, textured pattern that makes for a pleasant experience when using them. The headphone jack and the microUSB port are at up top and at the bottom respectively, with the latter flanked by two grills, even though only one of them houses the speaker.

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The honor 5X weighs 158 grams and is 8.2 mm thick, and with its 5.5-inch display, the handling experience is very manageable. All said and done, it is certainly very impressive that honor has managed to bring something that is quickly becoming the high-end standard, a metal build, to a device that falls in the budget category, and goes above and beyond what its price point might suggest.

Display

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The honor 5X comes with a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi. The display is actually quite impressive as well, and features vibrant colors that aren’t too over saturated, and with the whites being neither too warm, nor too cool. At this resolution, text is sharp and clear, and brightness is of no concern either, and allows for comfortable outdoor visibility.

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However, of note is the fact that the backlight shines through in darker areas more so than what is seen with other LCD panels out there, and the black bezel around the display can also be a bit of an eyesore, especially if you opt for the white version of the device. That said, these are the only areas where the screen falls short, and the overall viewing experience on this display is otherwise really good.

Performance

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Under the hood, the honor 5X comes with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor, clocked at 1.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 405 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. There is a 3 GB of RAM version of the device available as well though, for those looking to get a little more out of the multi-tasking capabilities of the device. This has been the processing package of choice for most smartphones that fall in this premium but affordable category, and while the performance understandably doesn’t match up to current generation flagships, it has usually been good for the most part.

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However, that isn’t entirely the case when it comes to the honor 5X, with things seeming a little more sluggish that what we’ve seen before. Animations will be choppy occasionally, and applications do take an extra second to open. There is also a bit of a delay when pressing keys on the keyboard, and the phone even freezes for a second or two while typing. You may also see app refreshes when switching between then via the Recent Apps screen, which is why spending a little extra to get the 3 GB RAM version may make sense for some users. Granted, the performance isn’t vastly different when compared to other smartphones powered by the Snapdragon 616, and these extra stutters can be attributed to the lack of polish of Huawei’s EMUI software package as well.

Hardware

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16 GB is the only internal storage option available here, but you do get expandable storage via microSD card by up to 128 GB, to help alleviate any storage concerns. The device also comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, along with dual SIM capabilities, as well as 4G LTE compatibility on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks, which is something that cannot often be said about smartphones from Chinese OEMs, and is another big positive of the honor 5X.

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Another useful addition in hardware that is not usually found with other similarly priced smartphones is a fingerprint scanner, placed on the back of the phone. The rear placement of the fingerprint reader definitely grows on you, and makes unlocking the device very easy, and without the need for any unnecessary hand gymnastics. The scanner also unlocks the device directly, without you having to press the power button first, and the reader is very fast and reliable. To see a fingerprint scanner on a budget-friendly device is an impressive fact by itself, and even more so when considering its high quality.

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The scanner does more than just unlock the device as well, and offers some additional functionality in the form of gesture controls. Swiping up launches the Recent Apps screen, a tap takes you back to any previous screen, and a tap and hold functions as a home button. Swiping down opens the notification drop down, and you can even use the scanner to answer calls, silence alarms, and take photos. With it being fast and very reliable, and packed with a slew of useful gesture controls, it has to be said that the honor 5X features one of the best fingerprint scanner implementations in the market right now.

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Despite the appearance of a dual speaker setup, only the grill at the bottom right houses a speaker, and with this placement, is very easy to cover up when watching videos or playing games in the landscape orientation. The sound quality of the speaker is not particularly good either, with audio sounding muffled and almost distorted, even at lower volumes.

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The honor 5X comes with a 3,000 mAh non-removable battery, and allows for surprisingly impressive battery life. Even on a day which involved a lot of gaming and taking pictures, the device managed close to 6 hours of screen-on time. You may not be getting any fast charging capabilities here, but with the battery life being as good as it is, its absence is not going to be felt either.

blu-life-one-x-vs-moto-g (1)See also: Best cheap Android phones (January 2016)328

Camera

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The honor 5X comes with a 13 MP rear shooter, with a f/2.0 aperture, and a dual tone LED flash, along with a 5 MP front-facing unit. There is no optical image stabilization to be had however, and overall, the quality is actually more of the same when compared to other smartphones that fall in this price range.

In optimal conditions, such as outdoors, the camera performs to the best of its ability and shots do look nice. Without any post processing or sharpening going on, pictures tend to have a lot of softness to them, but despite the seeming lack of sharpness, the images are still clear. The color temperature seems to be more towards the warm side, and colors appear to lack that punch of vibrancy as well. Areas of photos will also be overexposed the majority of the time, but all said and done, you can certainly get some pleasant looking shots from this camera when in good lighting situations. 

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HDR is available to help brighten up the shadows, and it does a great job for the most part. Sometimes, HDR tends to create an entirely brighter image however, resulting in a poorer looking picture instead. As lighting conditions deteriorate, the camera will try to compensate for the lack of light by increasing the shutter speed, but with no OIS to be found, very steady hands will be required to avoid blurry photos.

The camera can also shoot video in 1080p, but the lack of OIS once again means that videos will be pretty shaky, and over exposing is an issue here as well. It also tries to correct the exposure very rapidly with harsh adjustments, that can be very distracting. Video recording does come with a few extra modes though, including slow motion capture, and object tracking, which lets you select a particular object to focus on, after which the camera will track and focus on that object only, no matter where you move. 

The front-facing 5 MP camera also takes some decent shots, albeit with some extra noise. Indoor shots end up being less sharp and with a great amount of noise as well. The overall camera experience definitely has a lot of room for improvement, but is actually par for the course when compared to its similarly priced competition.

Software

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On the software side of things, the honor 5X is running Huawei’s EMUI 3.1 out of the box, based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. You won’t see a lot of Material Design elements in this user interface, and as is the case with most software packages from Chinese OEMs, there is no app drawer to be found, leaving users dependent on folders to stay organized.

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The software package is of course, very different from stock Android, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The notification drop down is very well organized, and split into two parts, with one housing all the notifications, and a swipe left required to bring up the quick toggles. Not only does this allow for a lot more notifications to be shown at once, but there is a lot more information here as well, including the exact time for received notifications. Customizations are seen in the form of themes, transition animations, and home screen grid, and you also get some fun features like shake to re-align icons and auto-align.

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This particular software experience may not be for everybody, but if you do give it a chance, there are a lot of extra and fun features to be had. Huawei has also stated that the honor 5X will receive timely software updates, including an official OTA update for EMUI 4.0 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, as well as monthly security updates. In fact, the security updates for January are already available for the device, even before its release, and it does look like Huawei is going to stick to their word in this regard.

Specifications

 Honor 5X
Display5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401ppi
TP & LCD full lamination
Operating systemAndroid 5.1 Lollipop
Huawei EMUI 3.1
ProcessorOcta-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 616
Memory2GB of RAM
Internal Storage16GB, expandable up to 128GB via microSD
Dual SIMYes
Cameras13MP rear camera with f/2.0 aperture, SmartImage 3.0 image processor, 28mm wide angle lens with flash
5MP front camera with f/2.4 aperture, 22mm wide angle
Mobile ConnectivityGSM 850, WCDMA Bands 1, 2, 4, 5, LTE Bands 2, 4, 5, 12, 17
ConnectivityWiFi 802.11 b/g/n, 2.4QG
Bluetooth 4.1
microUSB 2.0
GPS, AGPS, Glonass
SensorsFingerprint sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Digital compass
Battery3000mAh, non-removable
Dimensions151.3 x 76.3 x 8.15mm
158g
ColorsDark Grey, Daybreak Silver, Sunset Gold

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Pricing and final thoughts

The honor 5X is currently available from Amazon and NewEgg. It’s priced at just $199.99, with the available color options including grey, silver, and gold.

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So there you have it for this in-depth look at the honor 5X! Priced at just $200, the honor 5X is definitely a great buy, and is one of the only phone at this price point to offer both a premium metal build and a fingerprint scanner, aspects that are usually found with devices priced at more than double what the honor 5X costs. These two things alone make the phone a great bargain, but add to the mix a great display experience and a feature packed software package, and it is difficult to not recommend the honor 5X. Granted, the device isn’t flawless, with its mediocre camera and speaker, and somewhat sluggish performance, but its very affordable price tag more than makes up for any issues the phone may have.

Buy now from Amazon

17
Feb

Gear S2 follow up review


Smartwatches aren’t a new concept but, similar to tablets, they experienced a period of growth before the market stalled as other technology endeavours – Virtual Reality and Drones come to mind – came to the forefront. For wearable OEMs, building an Android-compatible smartwatch that is capable of achieving the same level of success as the Apple Watch has proved to be somewhat of a challenge. Thankfully, Samsung may have finally stumbled upon a recipe for success.

The company’s first Gear smartwatch ran on a customised version of the full Android OS, but since then, we’ve seen the Korean OEM take a different approach to wearables through its own Tizen OS. Built from the remains of Nokia and Intel’s failed MeeGo OS, Tizen is made by Samsung and Intel and over the past few generations of the Gear smartwatch range, we’ve seen the platform evolve considerably. Now, in the Samsung Gear S2, we have a flagship wearable that showcases just why Samsung opted to use Tizen instead of Google’s Android Wear OS.

After holding off on my purchase since it launched last October, I finally succumbed and replaced my Moto 360 2nd Gen with the Gear S2 at CES earlier this month. Below you’ll find my follow up review to Josh’s initial review of the Gear S2, which you can read and watch here.

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    Samsung Gear S2 Review

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    Samsung Gear S2 Unboxing and…

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    Samsung Gear S2 hands-on

Design

When designing wearables, companies seem to take one of two approaches: aim for the sporty look that is unmistakably a smartwatch or aim to blend in with the luxury watch segment.

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Some aim to straddle both approaches and with the Gear S2, Samsung has done just this; for those wanting all the rugged features without trying to blend in, the Gear S2 is exactly this, complete with its silicon band. For those who want a luxury smartwatch, the Gear S2 Classic has a leather strap for a traditional quartz look with the addition of some very smart features.

The original version is the model I’ve been using and although the Gear S2 Classic was my original choice, the sportier look of this version actually appeals more. One of the biggest benefits of the silicon band is that it barely shows any use with age, whereas leather has a habit of looking worn with minimal usage. The leather straps on both my Moto 360 and my Huawei Watch showed wear  after a little passing of time, with the Moto 360 being the worst offender. It’s nice not to have to worry about this.

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The silicon bands use a proprietary connector to connect to the stainless steel body and this means you can’t really change the design of the watch. The lack of traditional connectors means Samsung has been able to remove the lugs that are present in a more conventional design, which some people like but I find disconcerting.

The main body of the Gear S2 is made from stainless steel with a Home and Back button on the side, which let you interact with the OS in many different ways and a heart-rate sensor on the back. The key feature that sets the Gear S2 above many competitors is the unique rotating bezel around the display, which rotates with a reassuring click and is used to interact and navigate throughout the smartwatch.

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The Gear S2 sports a 1.2-inch Super AMOLED display with 360×360 resolution that offers 302 pixels per inch density. It’s an excellent display, is vibrant and easy to read and even in direct sunlight, it still remains usable. A particularly nice feature is that while the display doesn’t support auto-brightness, you have the option to set a minimum brightness level and the display brightness will automatically increase to a higher level depending on the amount of ambient light.

Overall, the Gear S2 certainly isn’t perfect – there are plenty of people that will find the inability to connect to traditional watch straps quite frustrating – and the buttons do take a little getting used to, but the rotating bezel is a fantastic idea and truly sets the Gear S2 apart from other smartwatches.

Samsung-Gear-S2-Hands-On-AA-(18-of-50)Hands on: Samsung Gear S2 vs Gear S2 Classic36

The smartwatch feels pretty nice on the wrist, has a noticeable, but manageable, amount of weight and fits in with almost everything you’re wearing. It manages to be unassuming yet functional and compared to some very odd choices on previous Gear smartwatches, the latest from Samsung finally gets it right.

Hardware

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A question many people have asked me is whether the Gear S2 has a GPS antenna and the answer is somewhat complicated, as it depends on which version of the smartwatch you have. The Gear S2 is available in Wi-Fi and 3G variants and if you opt for the latter, it’ll come with an e-SIM and speaker, GPS and a larger battery (300 mAh vs 250 mAh).

The lack of GPS may be considered a downside by fitness fanatics, but the Gear S2 somewhat makes up for it as you’re able to add songs to the 4GB internal storage and play them directly to your Bluetooth headset. This allows you to leave the tethered phone at home (unless you need GPS-mapping) and Wi-Fi support means you can continue to use the Gear S2 as a standalone device.

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One of the biggest improvements with the Gear S2 over past Samsung smartwatches is that it is now compatible with any Android smartphone running Android 4.4 or later, and will soon be able to connect to the iPhone as well. When used with non-Samsung devices, you are required to install a number of Samsung specific applications to get everything to work but the experience is almost identical to when paired with a Galaxy smartphone.

Like other wearables, the Gear S2 does have a fitness-focus of sorts, with S-Health proving quite the capable fitness coach. This begins from the home screen where a widget tells you different metrics (example, how much water or caffeine you’ve consumed) and your activity levels.

samsung gear s2 unboxing aa (15 of 20) Samsung Gear S2 unboxing and first impressions50

When you’re working out, S-Health is able to record your heart rate and display it in a rather cool graph and of course, all the data is synchronised right back to your smartphone as well. The Gear S2 smartly measures your activity levels and gives you helpful prompts to get moving when you’ve been idle too long; as someone who often spends long periods at a computer, the prompts to move – which are usually around an hour after you’ve been idle – act as a rather useful reminder to take a break.

Performance

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Under the hood, the Gear S2 is powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor (of unspecified variety) and 512MB of RAM. Those specs may look somewhat perplexing on paper but are in line with the current generation of wearables, and it’s more than enough to keep the experience running along nice and smoothly.

Previous Samsung Gear smartwatches have displayed a certain degree of lag with use, but despite adding music to the storage, apps to the smartwatch and having lots of unread notifications, the Gear S2 is seemingly infallible. The ability to marry the hardware and the software means Samsung has been able to deliver a smooth, carefully thought-out user experience that doesn’t require the latest hardware. As a result, Samsung achieved a level of optimisation – akin to Apple – that other Android Wear OEMs can only hope for.

Software

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Powering the entire Gear S2 experience is the Tizen OS and while it does have some negatives, I personally believe it’s definitely a good thing, for the simple reason that it provides a welcome difference in an otherwise somewhat-stale market.

While Samsung is seemingly committed to Android on its smartphones, its televisions and even its fridges, the company seems to be keeping a cautious distance to Android Wear. A particular reason is that while its been able to customise Android on all of the above, the Android Wear guidelines result in a mostly homogenous experience across all devices.

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In comparison, Tizen provides Samsung the flexibility and control that is sorely missing from Android Wear and the Gear S2 is justification for Samsung’s decision to use Tizen. There’s a lot to like about this experience (and some less than pleasing elements) but Tizen has allowed Samsung to deliver a unique smartwatch experience and in turn, Samsung has shown that having control over both the hardware and the software can yield great benefits.

The rotating bezel forms a fundamental part of the experience and allows you to navigate through the various menus and screens. The software feels a lot more intuitive and easy-to-use than other options and the back and home buttons feel like natural elements once you get used to them.

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While Android Wear solely relies on voice input, Tizen adds a T9 keyboard for the times when voice dictation isn’t the most ideal option. Typing on a small screen is certainly not comfortable, but having the ability to choose the most appropriate input for your circumstances is a welcome choice to have.

The bezel allows you to swipe between screens and options but you’ll still swipe up to dismiss notifications and tap the screen to select particular options. Then there’s the back and home buttons that allow you to return to the previous screen, go the home screen or open the apps drawer and finally you can also swipe down to access a quick settings menu. Despite all the various inputs, Samsung has somehow managed to make them all work together to provide a unique user experience that feels completely natural.

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One of my favourite parts of the Gear S2 is how it handles notifications; when you’re on the home screen, rotating to the left brings up all your unread notifications with each on its own screen. Tapping into it, you can scroll through the entire notification using the bezel and the circular display makes for easy viewing. I’ve read a relatively long email on the Gear S2 with no problems and then even sent a short reply – which is hidden behind the menu on the right – using the T9 keyboard. Granted, it was a 5-word reply!

It’s not all positive however but the negatives are very much determined by what parts of the smartwatch experience are most important to you. For instance, the Gear S2 comes with support from barely any third-party applications; if you’re a fitness fanatic, apps like RunKeeper aren’t supported. There’s no Google Maps support either and although Samsung has made its own Maps for Gear app, navigation on the Gear S2 is still a moot point. If you rely on Google for reminders and contextual notifications, you won’t get them on the Gear S2 and apps with a large userbase like Evernote and RunKeeper are also completely missing.

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Widgets are also pretty limited with most displaying information from Samsung’s own apps and the lack of third party applications isn’t likely to change anytime soon. After all, developers can choose to develop for Android Wear or Tizen, and they’ll obviously pick the former, thanks to a larger number of devices and potential customers.

The apps that are present on the Gear S2, like Yelp and Uber, show just how clever the rotating bezel can be, but for me personally, I use my smartwatch for notifications, fitness tracking and as a watch. I don’t need a ton of third-party apps and widgets, which will eventually and inevitably lead to performance lag and poor battery life. Instead, the battery life alone is one reason I’m more than happy to accept the limited Tizen experience.

Battery Life

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The Gear S2 is powered by a 250 mAh battery (or 300mAh if you buy the 3G variant) which may not seem particularly large but is more than enough to deliver excellent battery life. There’s no doubt that battery life is every wearable’s kryptonite, but the Gear S2 breaks the mould of current generation wearables.

Most OEMs quote the maximum battery life a smartwatch can attain and most fail to deliver on their remarks but the Gear S2 is a complete surprise in this department. The Apple Watch is quoted as all-day battery life but is actually only capable of 18 hours so you have to charge it every night. Similarly, most Android Wear watches can last into a second day with minimal usage but will run empty in the middle of the day so you’ll have to charge it every night.

Samsung’s past Gear smartwatches have also needed a charge most nights but the Gear S2 doesn’t. In fact, it’s the first fully-functional smartwatch I’ve used that can easily last several days; to provide some context, this excludes fitness-dedicated trackers and refers solely to full smartwatches. I will say that I’ve not spent extensive time with the Pebble range – including the Pebble Time Round which Josh highly recommends – and it’s worth keeping this in mind as they are quoted as offering excellent battery life.

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During my time with the Gear S2, I’ve found that if you keep Wi-Fi switched off when it’s not being used, reduce screen brightness to between 2 and 4 and use the Gear S2 solely for fitness tracking and notifications, the battery can easily last 2 full days and, depending on usage, even last a full third. The longest I’ve gone without charging it is 3 days, 4 hours and 41 minutes.

When the Gear S2 does run low on battery, the included magnetic charging dock lets you charge it to full in one hour and if you need a quick top up, it can add around 15% in about 10 minutes. While you may wish to charge the Gear S2 every night, especially if you’re using it quite heavily, you can get along pretty comfortably if you do forget to charge it.

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Gear S2 – the verdict

The Gear S2 costs $299 for the original version we’re using here, with another $50-60 for the cellular version, or $349 for the Gear S2 Classic. At this price, it’s equal to the current crop of Android Wear smartwatches and definitely offers a rival experience.

moto 360 2nd gen review aa (4 of 27)Now Read: Best Android Wear watches60

Like smartphones, certain features on a smartwatch will appeal to particular people and for me, the battery life on the Gear S2 alone makes it worth its price tag. Yes, the limitations are quite high, but I’m more than happy to take the rotating bezel and excellent battery life, instead of third party apps and a stale experience.

Over the past two years, I’ve been able to experience almost all the smartwatches that have been offered to the market and the Gear S2 is the first that I’ve actually found useful. For me personally, the homogenisation of Android Wear worked initially but now there’s very little to separate the Huawei Watch from the Moto 360 2nd Gen and the Asus Zenwatch 2 apart from the hardware. No matter which one you choose however, you can expect to charge it pretty much every day.

Let’s hope that Google loosens the reigns of Android Wear just enough to allow other OEMs to deliver truly unique experiences like the Gear S2.

With the Gear S2, the rotating bezel alone is unique enough to keep this wearable on my wrist and the battery life is an added benefit. In an industry full of similar devices, the Gear S2 remains unassuming, but makes just enough of a splash to capture your attention.Let’s hope that Google loosens the reigns of Android Wear just enough to allow other OEMs to deliver truly unique experiences like the Gear S2

17
Feb

honor 5X vs honor 7 quick look


Chinese OEM honor may have only been around for a couple of years, but the Huawei subsidiary has recently been trying to make a splash in global markets. Last month, it introduced the new honor 5X to the US market at CES and today at an event in Germany, the honor 5X made its Western European bow.

It’s been a year since honor released the honor 6 and honor 6 plus and last August, we saw the first switch to metal with the honor 7. Now, the honor 5X aims to offer a premium experience at a very affordable price, but how does it compare to honor’s flagship and which one should you buy? Join us below for a quick look.

Specs

Before we dig into our first look, let’s take a look at the specs of each of these smartphones:

 honor 5Xhonor 7
Display5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401ppi
TP & LCD full lamination5.2-inch IPS LCD
Full HD, 424 ppi
ProcessorOcta-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 616
Adreno 405 GPU2.2 GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 935 processor
Mali-T628 GPU
Memory2GB3 GB
Internal Storage16GB
expandable up to 128GB via microSD16/64 GB
expandable up to 128GB
SoftwareAndroid 5.1.1 Lollipop
EMUI v3.1
Planned upgrade to Android MarshmallowAndroid 5.1.1 Lollipop
EMUI v3.1
Planned upgrade to Android Marshmallow
Dual SIMYes, 2 SIM cards and microSD cardYes, 2 SIM cards or 1 SIM + micro SD
Camera13MP rear camera with f/2.0 aperture, SmartImage 3.0 image processor, 28mm wide angle lens with flash
5MP front camera with f/2.4 aperture, 22mm wide angle
dual LED flash
5MP front, no flash20 MP rear camera with
f/2.0 aperture, 1/2.4″ sensor size, phase detection autofocus
dual LED flash
8 MP front,with flash
ConnectivityWiFi 802.11 b/g/n, 2.4QG
Bluetooth 4.1
microUSB 2.0
GPS, AGPS, GlonassWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0
GPS+GLONASS
NFC
IR blaster
USB 2.0
SensorsFingerprint sensor, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Digital compassFingerprint sensor, Accelerometer,
Gyrometer,
Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Digital compass
Battery3000mAh, non-removable3100mAh, non-removable
Dimensions151.3 x 76.3 x 8.15mm
158g143.2 x 71.9 x 8.5 mm
157 grams
ColorsDark Grey, Daybreak Silver, Sunset GoldGray, Silver, Gold

Design

Both handsets adopt a similar design with large displays and equally large bezels dominating the front of the handset. As you might expect, they adopt a similar design to Huawei’s own smartphones, albeit with enough tweaks to have their own identity. Put close together, you might struggle to distinguish them apart, however, as you might expect from two similar yet unique smartphones, there are certain things that can help you tell them apart.

On the front is the most noticeable difference: the display. The honor 5X has a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS display while the honor 7 sports a smaller 5.2-inch IPS-Neo display of the same resolution, but crucially, this comes with Gorilla Glass 3 protection. In actual usage, the honor 7 display is noticeably more vibrant with colours and while the honor 5X display is definitely inferior, it still provides a good experience. Each handset comes with a screen protector applied out of the box, and while you’ll have few issues if you remove the protector on the honor 7, the honor 5X display does scratch quite easily.

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One of the most noticeable differences is the Smart Key on the left of the Honor 7, which lets you set customisable shortcuts to launch certain apps or features but has been left out of the honor 5X. Given the lower price of the 5X, certain sacrifices are to be expected and as useful as the Smart Key can prove to be, it’s an acceptable sacrifice.

Each phone sports a metal frame, where on the bottom, you’ll find the speakers – a mono speaker in the honor 7 and stereo speakers in the honor 5X – and microUSB ports. On the left, you’ll find the SIM card tray and a key difference: the honor 7 has two independent trays, with the first used for SIM cards and the second for a microSD card or a second SIM card. In comparison, the honor 5X has just one tray but gains an extra slot; while many handsets do offer dual SIM support, only a handful allow you to use two SIM cards and a microSD card at the same time.

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    honor 5X Review!

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    Honor 5X hands on

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    Honor 7 vs Honor 6 Plus

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    Huawei Honor 7 review

Both handsets offer metal unibody designs, with the honor 7 sporting a matte finish, and the honor 5X a brushed design. While the honor 7 feels premium in every sense of the word, the honor 5x… doesn’t. It’s difficult to explain why, but despite being very well built, the honor 5x doesn’t feel like a premium metal smartphone. That being said, it’s still a very nice design and more than solid in the hand.

Underneath the camera, each device has a square fingerprint sensor and this is an area that Huawei – like we saw with the Nexus 6P – and subsequently, honor, definitely excel in the smartphone market. The honor 7 bought a range of features to the fingerprint sensor including being able to launch a call or app and the honor 5X also has a few tricks up its own sleeve. Different taps and swipes on the sensor can be used to navigate back to the home screen, access recent apps, dismiss your alarm, answer calls, take a photo and much more.

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It’s worth noting though that while both fingerprint sensors do offer a lot of features, and are exceptionally fast at unlocking your phone, you won’t be able to use them for Android Pay. As both devices also run Android 5.1.1 at their core – although, the honor 7 is expected to get the Marshmallow update in the coming weeks – you won’t be able to access any apps that use Marshmallow’s built-in fingerprint API.

Overall, hardware has been a strength for Huawei for a few years now and as we’ve seen with the honor 7, and now the honor 5x, the company can offer great hardware at an affordable price.

Software

An issue that’s faced both honor and Huawei devices, is the interface with EMUI proving to provide polarized opinions. Both devices run on EMUI v3.1 atop Android 5.1.1 Lollipop but is it any better than previous interface and have some glaring issues been fixed?

One of the biggest differences between EMUI and a more traditional Android approach is the home-screen and launcher, where Huawei has opted to ditch the traditional app drawer and place all your app icons on your home screens. While some of you may find this disconcerting, it does become usable after you get used to it and you can always install a launcher to change some of these elements.

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EMUI also heavily customises the notification menu, with it adopting a dark opaque colour that also takes on the colours from the home screen in the background. The notification menu comes with two tabs, one for Notifications and the other for Shortcuts, and a particularly neat feature is that it will automatically open the shortcuts tab if you swipe down and have no notifications.

huawei mate 8 review aa (33 of 34)See also: Huawei, I love your phones — just fix your software, please191

The differences are minimal between the two on the software front, but the honor 7 does come with a range of software features that are – oddly – missing on the honor 5X. These include the Knuckle Sense feature that let you capture a screenshot or launching an app by drawing a letter or tapping with your knuckle on the display.

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Also absent is the voice command feature that allowed you to locate your phone from a distance, and while missing features are always worth mentioning, it’s worth noting that these features aren’t the most reliable. Instead, the honor 5X offers a more simplified experience that is actually more pleasing to use than EMUI on the honor 7.

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Overall, EMUI is certainly not stock Android, but Huawei’s approach does have its fans and the software experience from the honor 7 to the honor 5X has definitely been improved. The latter offers a more refined interface and while both do still have their issues, it’s good to see that Huawei is making progress in the software department. Neither smartphone runs the latest Marshmallow OS, but the update is already available as a beta for the honor 7 and is expected to launch for the honor 5X in the coming months.

Hardware & Performance

Under the hood is where you’ll find a major change from the honor 7 to the honor 5x; the processor. With the former, honor opted to use Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin processor, while the latter is powered by a Qualcomm processor.

The Kirin 935 inside the honor 7 features eight Cortex-A53 cores, with four clocked at 2.2GHz and four at 1.5GHz, while the Snapdragon 616 inside the honor 5X has the same amount of cores at lower clock speeds of 1.5GHz and 1.2GHz respectively. The honor 7 sports 3GB RAM under the hood while the honor 5X has just 2GB but a crucial difference is also the GPU; the Kirin 935 has a Mali-T628 GPU while the honor 5X has an Adreno 405 GPU, which should, in theory, offer better graphics performance.

Both smartphones also come with expandable storage and the honor 7 has either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB storage depending on which model you go for. The honor 5X meanwhile offers 16GB storage across all models, meaning you’ll most likely need a microSD card to expand the measly storage.

blu-life-one-x-vs-moto-g (1)See also: Best cheap Android phones (January 2016)328

Given the price differences between the two devices, some concessions were to be expected, and under the hood is where honor has attempted to scale back some of the features. The honor 7 offers Wi-Fi n/ac, a wide range of Bluetooth profiles, NFC, infrared and LTE Cat 6, which offers download speeds of 300Mbps on the go. In comparison, the honor 5X offers just Wi-Fi n and doesn’t come with support for 5GHz wireless, has no NFC or infrared capability and supports the slower, yet still very fast, LTE Cat 4.

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Where both smartphones certainly excel is the battery, with the honor 5X offering a large 3000 mAh battery, and the honor 7, a 3100mAh battery. Compared to other devices at the same price point as these devices, the battery capacity is definitely on the larger side of the market and each smartphone should easily last you a full day’s usage.

Camera

On the back, each handset has a square camera sensor and the honor 5X follows on from the honor 7’s camera fantastic camera, albeit not without some compromises. Budget smartphones aren’t known for having fantastic cameras, but honor has sought to break the mould by equipping the honor 5X with a 13MP shooter with f/2.0 aperture, 28mm wide-angle lens, blue glass infrared filter, anti-reflective coating and Huawei’s SmartImage 3.0 image processor for low light shots.

In comparison, the honor 7 comes with a 20MP 27mm wide-angle lens with f/2.0 aperture, 1/2.4” sensor size, phase detection autofocus and a range of software features including the super-night and light-trail modes. Both handsets offer dual LED flash and Full HD video recording but only the honor 7 offers HDR in video.

honor 5X camera samples

On the front, the honor 5X has a 5MP sensor with 22mm wide angle lens, f/2.4 aperture while the honor 7 has an 8MP sensor with 26mm wide angle lens, f/2.4 and an LED flash. Both devices also come with Huawei’s Beauty Mode feature that lets you apply effects and filters to your selfies to bring out your face’s natural features.

honor 7 camera samples

Overall, both cameras are certainly impressive for their respective price points and there’s no doubt that the honor 7 camera is one of the best at the price point. Where honor have done exceptionally well however, is in the camera on the honor 5X; it’s rare that budget smartphones have cameras worth talking about, but, despite its shortcomings, the honor 5X camera definitely breaks the theory that budget smartphones should have poor cameras.

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Verdict

There’s no doubt that the honor 7 is a smartphone that’s helped honor capture the mid-range market and to follow it up, the company has attempted to take on the budget segment. With a 5.5-inch 1080p display, metal build, excellent fingerprint sensor and impressive camera, there’s a lot to like about the honor 5X before you even see its price point.

Throughout this quick look, we’ve been talking about the price without mentioning it and there’s a very good reason for that; the honor 5X feature set may seem like it should cost $300 or more for an unlocked device, honor’s latest smartphone costs just $199 unlocked, direct from the Chinese OEM. In comparison, the honor 7 isn’t officially available to buy in the USA – not least from honor directly – but can be had for approximately $350 to $450 depending on where you choose to buy from.

Which smartphone should you buy? It’s a rather straight forward decision; at its price point, the honor 7 has a lot of competition from a lot of more established devices, including last year’s flagships and becomes a lot harder to recommend. However, at its $199 price point, there’s very few devices that can compete with the honor 5X’s feature list and none that offer the same metal build and ultrafast fingerprint sensor.

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Read more:

  • Honor 5x review
  • Honor 7 review

For more on each handset, be sure to head over to our honor 7 and honor 5X reviews. Let us know what you think about each smartphone and which you’d buy in the comments below and over in our honor forum, where you’ll find more discussions around honor and the company’s devices.

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