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26
Feb

The Opportunity rover just celebrated 5,000 ‘sols’ on the Martian surface


The mission to Mars was only supposed to last about three months — apparently the Opportunity rover didn’t get the message. On February 17, 2018 the golf-cart-sized rover watched the sun rise on the red planet for the 5,000th time.

A “sol” is a Martian day, and it’s about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day. A year on Mars lasts nearly two Earth years. Mission planners didn’t expect Opportunity to survive even one Martian winter; it’s now in the middle of its eighth.

“We’ve reached lots of milestones, and this is one more, but more important than the numbers are the exploration and the scientific discoveries,” said John Callas of JPL in a statement announcing the achievement.

Opportunity and its twin rover Spirit were both launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2003. They landed on opposite sides of the planet in January 2004. NASA and the engineers at JPL knew there was a good possibility that the missions would last longer than 90 sols, because the rovers could clean away the Martian dust accumulating in their solar panels.

The rovers made some valuable discoveries about Mars during their lengthy stay. Observations confirmed that there was once water on Mars, and that it was once a habitable planet. They uncovered evidence of meteorite impacts and revealed new discoveries about the Martian atmosphere.

The rover Sprint broke one of its wheels in 2004 but continued to drag itself around. In 2009, it became trapped in soft sand and could not extricate itself as dust began to build up on the solar panels. It fell silent in 2010 and NASA declared it officially dead a year later.

But Opportunity keeps on trucking. According to Science Trends, Opportunity has traveled 27 miles since landing on the red planet, beating the previous record for longest distance traveled off our planet, which had been held by the Soviet lunar rover Lunokhod 2. The rover has sent 225,000 images back to its home planet in the past 14 years, including a 360-degree panorama on its 10-year anniversary.

As Space.com reported, it’s still making new discoveries as well. A pattern of rock stripes found in January in an area known as Perseverance Valley has scientists intrigued. “I don’t know what these stripes are, and I don’t think anyone else knows for sure what they are, so we’re entertaining multiple hypotheses and gathering more data to figure it out,” said Robert Sullivan of Cornell University.

“Five thousand sols after the start of our 90-sol mission, this amazing rover is still showing us surprises on Mars,” said Callas.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • NASA’s InSight lander passes its final tests, ready for the trip to Mars
  • Did the Curiosity Rover just discover evidence of alien fossils on Mars?
  • Patent filings suggest Microsoft could be gearing up for a Surface Pen revamp
  • Microsoft lowers Surface Book 2 and Laptop price of entry
  • NASA just tested the tiny nuclear reactor it could use for a Martian colony


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26
Feb

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact vs. XZ1 Compact: What a difference a year makes


Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The long-vaunted Sony redesign has finally arrived in the rounded shape of the Xperia XZ2 and its little brother, the Xperia XZ2 Compact. This new look heralds the biggest shake up we’ve seen for the Xperia range since the Z series began. With so few manufacturers making small smartphones nowadays, we’ve been big fans of the Compact series over the last few years, though we had issues with the XZ1 Compact’s design, limited storage, and lack of a working fingerprint sensor in the United States. Does the XZ2 Compact bring the improvements we’ve been craving? Let’s take a closer look as we compare last year’s XZ1 Compact with the new XZ2 Compact to see which is better.

Specs and performance

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact

Size
135 x 65 x 12.1 mm (5.31 x 2.6 x 0.48 inches)
129 x 64 x 9.3 mm (5.08 x 2.52 x 0.37 inches)

Weight
5.93 ounces (168 grams)
4.94 ounces (140 grams)

Screen
5-inch IPS LCD
4.6-inch IPS LCD

Resolution
2,160 x 1,080 pixels
1,280 x 720 pixels (319ppi)

OS
Android 8.0 Oreo
Android 8.0 Oreo

Storage
64GB
32GB

SD card slot
Yes
Yes

NFC support
Yes
Yes

Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835

RAM
4GB
4GB

Connectivity
GSM / HSPA / LTE
GSM / HSPA / LTE

Camera
Front 5MP, rear 19MP
Front 8MP, rear 19MP

Video
4K HDR at 30fps, 1,080p at 960fps
4K at 30fps, 1,080p at 60fps, 720p at 960fps

Bluetooth
Yes, version 5.0
Yes, version 5.0

Fingerprint sensor
Yes
Yes (Not in U.S.)

Other sensors
Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity
Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, barometer, compass

Water resistant
Yes, IP68
Yes, IP68

Battery
2,870mAh
2,700mAh

Charger
USB Type-C
USB Type-C

Quick charging
Yes
Yes

Wireless charging
No
No

Marketplace
Google Play Store
Google Play Store

Color offerings
White Silver, Black, Moss Green, Coral Pink
Black, Snow Silver, Horizon Blue, Twilight Pink

Availability
Late spring 2018
October 4

Pricing
TBA
$600

DT review
Hands-on
3 out of 5

The Compact has been one of the best small phones available for the last few years, partly because Sony doesn’t scale down the internal power when it scales down the body — the Compact has the same chip as Sony’s flagship. That means you can expect cutting-edge performance from the Xperia XZ2 Compact. Because another year has passed, it sports the very latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, which is faster and less power hungry than the Xperia XZ1 Compact’s Snapdragon 835. Since the XZ1 Compact was already plenty powerful, we’re not sure you’ll notice a huge difference here, but any performance boost is welcome.

Both phones have 4GB of RAM, but the Xperia XZ2 Compact gets an internal storage boost to 64GB, compared to the 32GB in last year’s model. That’s good because we found that there was only around 20GB free on the Xperia XZ1 Compact out of the box and it fills up fast. Thankfully, both phones support MicroSD card expansion.

There’s no doubt that the XZ2 Compact wins this round with more power under the hood and more storage capacity.

Winner: Xperia XZ2 Compact

Design, display, and durability

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You can argue about whether Sony has gone far enough with the redesign in the XZ2 Compact, but we think it’s easily more attractive than its predecessor. A curved polycarbonate back sits comfortably in the hand, the angular corners have been rounded, and the bezels around the screen have been shaved down. It looks and feels less chunky than the XZ1 Compact. The fingerprint sensor on the XZ2 Compact has been moved around to the back of the phone, which allows the sides to be slimmed down, and we’re delighted to report that it works in the U.S. as well.

There are also some important upgrades in the display department, with a full HD, 1080p, 5-inch screen in the XZ2 Compact, compared to the XZ1 Compact’s 4.6-inch, 720p screen. Sony has embraced the 18:9 aspect ratio, too. We’re glad to see that Sony has managed to pack in a larger, much sharper screen without substantially increasing the size of the device.

In terms of durability there isn’t much difference between the two. They’re both IP68 rated, so they’ll be able to handle rain or a short dunk without damage.

Winner: Xperia XZ2 Compact

Battery life and charging

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

On paper Sony has managed to squeeze in an extra 170mAh to the battery, bringing it up to 2,870mAh. The newer phone also has a more power efficient chip inside. But all that must be balanced against the bigger, higher resolution screen. Whether that slight jump over the XZ1 Compact’s 2,700mAh battery will make a difference is hard to know until we’ve had more time with the new phone. The good news is that the XZ1 Compact has some serious stamina and easily outlasts the majority of its rivals. We expect the XZ2 Compact to be similarly long lasting.

While the new Xperia XZ2 supports wireless charging, we were disappointed to find that the XZ2 Compact doesn’t. This is down to the polycarbonate, rather than glass back. It doesn’t really make a difference here, because the XZ1 Compact doesn’t support wireless charging either. Assuming Sony has managed to take advantage of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+ technology, the XZ2 Compact should be faster to charge up when plugged in, but we’ll need to test it out to confirm that. For now, we’ll call this round a tie.

Winner: Tie

Camera

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Ostensibly the main camera in this year’s Compact hasn’t changed — it’s still rated at 19 megapixels. That may not be good news, because we were disappointed with the camera in the XZ1 Compact during testing as it produced noisy, grainy shots far too often. We need to test the XZ2 Compact camera out in the wild to see what software tweaks Sony has made. One new trick it does have up its sleeve is the ability to record 4K HDR footage — which Sony says is a world first. That could be great news if you have a TV capable of playing back true HDR. Sony has also beefed up the slow-motion mode, so you can record at 960 fps in 1080p resolution. Slo-mo was limited to 720p in the XZ1 Compact.

Around front, Sony has actually switched to a 5-megapixel selfie camera in the XZ2 Compact — its predecessor had an 8-megapixel camera. We don’t anticipate there being much of a noticeable difference, but it’s another element that requires some hands-on testing for a proper verdict.

We’re hopeful that this year’s camera will perform better, but only testing will reveal that. For now, the video-shooting improvements are enough for the win to go to the XZ2 Compact.

Winner: Xperia XZ2 Compact

Software

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Since the Xperia XZ1 Compact already runs the latest Android 8.0 Oreo, with Sony’s user interface on top, we’re not expecting things to be much different on the XZ2 Compact in the software department. Sony mentioned that the 3D Creator app has been improved to include 3D capture with the selfie camera and that the XZ2 Compact will be able to use Qualcomm’s low-power hot word, so it can recognize “OK Google” even when the screen is off. Other than that, we suspect the software experience will be identical, so this category is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact was priced at $600 on release and was available from online retailers such as Amazon, but not from any U.S. carriers. We felt that was expensive at the time, compared with some of the other smartphones on offer, but you’ll find it has come down in price in the last few months. You can snag one now for $450 and it’s likely to get even cheaper when its successor hits the market. It’s important to note that the XZ1 Compact isn’t compatible with Verizon and Sprint, though it does have support for GSM networks, which means it works just fine on AT&T or T-Mobile.

There’s good news for Verizon customers as Sony is partnering with the carrier to release the Xperia XZ2 Compact. You’ll also be able to buy the phone online. The bad news is that the XZ2 Compact is going to cost upwards of $700, and that we don’t know when it’ll be out beyond “late spring 2018.” The winner here depends on your priorities, so we’re calling it a tie.

Winner: Tie

Overall winner: Xperia XZ2 Compact

It would have been a real shock if Sony’s latest didn’t improve on last year’s model, but it definitely does. The Xperia XZ2 Compact looks and feels better, has more power and storage, and offers a sharper, bigger display. It is definitely a superior phone to the XZ1 Compact and a strong contender for the best small Android phone on the market. If your budget is limited, then the XZ1 Compact might be the best option for you, but price aside, we would advise you to buy the Xperia XZ2 Compact.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact hands-on review
  • The best Xperia XZ1 Compact cases to safeguard your small smartphone
  • Sony’s Xperia XZ2 smartphones have better Super Slow Motion than the Galaxy S9
  • Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra vs. Moto X4: 2018’s new midrange challenger
  • The Autel EVO packages 60 fps 4K video in a compact folding drone


26
Feb

Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact hands-on review


Research Center:
Sony Xperia XZ2

Sony has a new phone, and no, it’s not a rectangular slab with chunky edges around the screen. Yes, you heard that right. For the first time in six years, Sony has finally redesigned its smartphones. Gone is the “Omnibalance” angular design in favor of “Ambient Flow,” which Sony said is meant to mimic water. The Sony Xperia XZ2 is all about curves, and its ergonomic design harks back to the days of the original Moto X.

Sony also announced the Xperia XZ2 Compact, which carries many of the same features but in a smaller package and a different design. Let’s take a closer look at the Xperia XZ2 first.

Ergonomic design

Sony has finally embraced the bezel-less smartphone trend, where the edges around the screen are minimized in favor of more screen real estate. The bezels are still not as thin as those on phones such as the new Galaxy S9, but it’s a major improvement over the Xperia XZ1. Front-facing stereo speakers make it easier to give Sony a pass as well — though the speaker on the bottom bezel is well-hidden.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Xperia XZ2 is two sheets of Gorilla Glass 5 sandwiching a metal frame. The edges are curved, and so is the back, allowing for a comfortable fit in the palm. The phone is still a little unwieldy due to its 5.7-inch size, but the curved back certainly makes it manageable.

The XZ2 looks sleek and modern, and it helps there’s also a plethora of colors to choose from.

You’ll find all the buttons on the right edge, including a dedicated camera button on the bottom right. The power button isn’t indented anymore, which is a nice change, but the volume rocker is a tad too high to comfortably reach. At the bottom edge is a USB Type-C charging port. Flip the phone over to the back and you’ll see perfect symmetry. There’s a nice flow of small circles — the flash and other sensors — leading up to the single rear camera. But it’s the fingerprint sensor that’s so satisfying to see. After years of blocking access to the fingerprint sensor in U.S. devices for “business decisions,” Sony is finally embracing the rear sensor, and it couldn’t be in a better spot.

We think the refreshed design is a step in the right direction for Sony. The XZ2 looks sleek and modern, and it helps that there’s also a plethora of colors to choose from — we’re partial to the blue (which Sony says is “deep green”), but you can also choose between silver, black, and pink.

HDR display, strong specs

The 5.7-inch screen utilizes an 18:9 aspect ratio, with a 2,160 x 1,080-pixel resolution. It looks sharp, colorful, and faultless, though we’ll need a closer look to pass a final verdict. It does support High Dynamic Range (HDR), so you can enjoy higher color profiles with HDR-supported content from apps like Netflix and HBO.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

At the same time, Sony is also using its own X-Reality technology that can upscale traditional SDR media into HDR. An example we saw of an SDR photo being upscaled into HDR more or less looked as though the screen boosted saturation, but there was also a little more contrast, and it certainly was the more eye-catching scene to watch.

All of this is being powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 processor, which is reportedly 30 percent faster than last year’s Snapdragon 835 chipset, as well as 30 percent more efficient. The XZ2 comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, as well as a MicroSD card slot in case you need more storage. It flew through menus and apps opened quickly; we expect the device to be a powerhouse.

You undoubtedly won’t have a problem with performance on this device.

The phone runs Android 8.0 Oreo, and while we’re happy it’s coming with the latest version of Android, there are some parts of Sony’s user interface that are not too attractive, and there’s a decent amount of Sony apps that come pre-installed. It’s not a deal-breaker at all; we’re just nitpicking.

The Xperia XZ2 comes packed with a 3,180mAh battery, and since there’s glass on the back of the phone, it’s capable of wirelessly charging through the Qi standard. It’s also IP68-water resistant, meaning it can survive in up to 1.5 meters underwater for 30 minutes.

You undoubtedly won’t have a problem with performance on this device, though we’ll have to do more testing to see how the Snapdragon 845 processor fares. We’re happy with the display on the XZ2 as well, and we’re excited to continue testing Oreo on it.

Look, Hear, and Feel

Sony’s mantra for the XZ2 focuses on three aspects of this entertainment device: Look, Hear, and Feel. Look is comprised of the HDR upscaling technology and the HDR-supported screen we’ve talked about. Next up is “hear,” which places an emphasis on high-fidelity audio.

The dual front-facing stereo speakers are 20 percent louder than the XZ2’s predecessor, and it leverages Sony’s S-Force Front Surround to envelope the listener with 360-degree surround sound. It certainly has gotten loud, but it was tough to judge audio quality during our time with the phone.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compared To

Nokia 1

Cat S41

Motorola Stature i9

Sony Ericsson C902

Motorola MOTORIZR Z3

Jitterbug Dial

Samsung SCH-u620

LG VX9400

Sony Ericsson K790a

Nokia N93

Blackberry 8700c

Blackberry 8700g

Nokia N90

Palm Treo 650

Motorola RAZR V3c

Along with the speakers, the XZ2 supports a wide variety of high-resolution audio codecs and technologies, including the company’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, LDAC, as well as Qualcomm’s AptX HD.

The final “feel” category revolves around a new Sony technology called the Dynamic Vibration System, and it’s a little odd. Essentially, the XZ2 has a bigger actuator that provides stronger vibrations. The device uses an algorithm to offer more haptic feedback based on the audio output. So if you’re watching a movie, you may feel more vibrations when there’s a dramatic event taking place. For games, the phone will feel more responsive when the sound effects or music ramp up. You’ll want to turn it off when listening to music, though, since the phone just seems to constantly vibrate (yes, you can turn it off).

We tried it out with Angry Birds, and it was tough to be impressed. The device was a prototype, so we cannot say whether what we experienced will be the final result, but feeling extra vibrations when pulling back the slingshot didn’t make us feel more immersed in the game. We’ll have to give it a closer look for our full review.

Camera

There’s no dual-camera system on the XZ2, sadly. Instead, you’ll find a 19-megapixel camera, and a new feature called 4K HDR video recording, which Sony said is a world first.

More interestingly, Sony’s signature Super Slow Mo technology has improved. It has always been able to capture 960 frames per second in 720p, but it can now do the same in 1080p as well. It’s a leg up over Samsung’s super-slow-motion on the Galaxy S9. The 1080p version of this wasn’t finalized yet for us to demo, but it will work similarly to Sony’s previous devices with the technology — the results will just have a higher resolution. The slow-motion videos will be shorter, though, as it can only capture half the speed of 720p. That means you’ll get only 0.09 seconds of slow-motion video, which will net you 3 seconds of playback.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We did take a few stills with the camera app, and we found the phone snapped photos relatively quickly. It did a solid job with some indoor shots, but it did seem to suffer with an extremely bright sky and a dark foreground — something our Pixel 2 XL managed easily at the same time.

The 3D Creator app, which lets you create a 3D model of objects and faces, first debuted on the XZ1. On the XZ2, it now works with the front-facing camera, so you can create a 3D scan of yourself by yourself. You can also now share it directly to Facebook. It’s kind of neat, and creating a selfie 3D scan myself produced decent results, but we still see this feature as gimmicky for the average consumer. Still, there are some genuine uses here, especially since these scans can be sent to 3D printers, or placed as avatars in certain games.

Xperia XZ2 Compact

The Xperia XZ2 Compact feels quite the opposite of the modern and sleek XZ2. Our first impression – it’s a blast from the past. Yes, it also uses an 18:9 aspect ratio and has slim bezels around the screen, but the 5-inch phone feels incredibly compact, and it’s almost comically thick. It feels like a feature phone from pre-smartphone days, in a charming way. If you’re looking for a tiny smartphone, the Compact is powerful and will fit any pocket.

The Xperia XZ2 Compact feels quite the opposite of the modern and sleek XZ2.

The main difference between the XZ2 Compact and the XZ2 is size — but there’s no loss in resolution, and you’ll still find a Full HD screen on the Compact. There’s no Dynamic Vibration System, and because there’s no glass back (it’s polycarbonate), you cannot wirelessly charge the phone. Since it’s smaller, the battery has a slightly lower capacity at 2,780mAh. Sony also said the XZ2 Compact will be available on Verizon, while the regular XZ2 will not be on any carrier at all, but available unlocked.

The rest of the specifications are the same as the XZ2, which means we can expect the price for both to be in the same ballpark, with the XZ2 costing a little more.

Availability and price

Sony hasn’t mentioned availability or pricing for either device yet, beyond that they’ll be available in “late spring 2018,” but we’ll update this review as soon as we hear something.

All in all, the XZ2 Compact and XZ2 are a good pair of devices that offer something a little different. There are a few aspects we’re not sold on yet, such as the Dynamic Vibration System, as well as the camera experience compared to phones like the Google Pixel 2 XL. But we love the 1080p Super Slow Motion camera, and you can’t deny that it delivers a great viewing and listening experience thanks to support for all these technologies. We’ll have to wait for the full review to see if the XZ2’s strengths make it worth buying.

26
Feb

STK X2 hands-on review


Research Center:
STK X2

Let us introduce you to STK, a British mobile phone manufacturer you may not have heard of, primarily because until now it has made solid feature phones, as well as a range of low-cost Android smartphones for the tech-terrified. The STK X2 is the company’s first mid-range device, but it’s still meant to help less tech savvy people experience the joy of proper smartphone ownership, without the usual drawbacks associated with buying a cheap phone. With the X2, STK is shaping up to be OnePlus for the people who aren’t into tech at all.

What do we mean? OnePlus makes excellent phones that shun the fluff and extraneous features most of us don’t use, opting for a strong, simple software experience, and cutting-edge hardware — all for a sensible price. STK is doing the same for people who’ve never heard of OnePlus or any other phone manufacturer outside of Samsung or Apple, for people who have probably never owned a smartphone before, and for people who are intimidated by the thought of learning and understanding a highly complex and dense industry.

Beautiful and user friendly

Picking up the X2, seen here in a beautiful gold color that will come soon after the black model at launch, it feels every bit as solid and well-made as an Honor 7X. The unibody style and design reminded us of the Honor 9, with its highly reflective glass rear panel that catches light in a very attractive way. The 5.7-inch screen has a 2.5D piece of glass over the top, which neatly curves round to meet the shaped body. It’s comfortable, has weight behind it, and at 8.2mm it’s thick enough to hold on to, but not so chunky that it looks ugly.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It looks modern too, due to the 18:9 aspect ratio screen with minimal bezels. No, they’re not as slim as a Galaxy S8 or LG V30, but this isn’t a phone for people interested in buying one of those. It’s for someone that isn’t sure about smartphones yet, but isn’t blind to style or design. This is emphasised by the dual-lens camera on the back — which is just as much of a must-have in 2018 as the 18:9 screen — tuned to produce those cool bokeh blurred background shots.

STK is shaping up to be OnePlus for the people who aren’t into tech at all.

You’ll find Android 8.1 Oreo installed on the STK X2, and it’s free of any special user interface, leaving it as Google intended. That’s rare on most phones today. STK does add a couple of cool features though, the most notable being STK Care. Think of this as a 24/7 helpline for fixing problems with your phone, from how to change the ringtone to claiming on the three-year warranty. It’s all done in real-time through a messaging app. We saw it in action, and replies came through in less than a minute, guiding us through simple problems. This is a free service for as long as you own the phone. That’s right, no subscription charge, ever.

Another STK software feature keeps the phone running in optimal condition, tweaking things behind the scenes so the phone stays in tip-top operating condition. It’s all adjustable inside the STK Care app, so if it’s doing something you don’t like, you can easily change it. Simple Android, STK Care’s helpline, and the invisible optimization tools are all there to make the X2 feel friendly, open, and instantly usable to the newcomer.

Mid-range specs

This is a mid-range phone, and a good option for people who balk at the $500 price tag of the OnePlus 5T. The 5.7-inch screen has a 1,440 x 720 pixel resolution, which although looked crisp and bright when we tried the phone, isn’t particularly pixel-heavy. There is a MediaTek octa-core processor inside, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage space, and a MicroSD card slot. The rear camera has a 16-megapixel main lens and a 0.3-megapixel secondary lens. The 3,000mAh battery should keep a phone with these specs running for a sensible amount of time though.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The price? The STK X2 is 250 British pounds without a contract, or about $350. This puts it in direct competition with the Honor 7X and the Honor 9 Lite, along with any number of imported phones from companies including Xiaomi and Meizu. The difference here is that the Honor and Xiaomi phones are complicated. They’re for the tech savvy who have done their research. The STK X2 is for people who don’t want to do the research. They want the benefits of smartphone ownership without worrying if they’re going to run into problems they can’t solve, or having to deal with dozens of features they don’t understand.

STK X2 Compared To

Sony Xperia XZ2

Nokia Lumia 820

LG LX 370

Motorola Stature i9

Motorola MOTO W233 Renew

Sony Ericsson C902

Casio G’zOne Boulder

Samsung Highnote (SPH-M630)

Helio Mysto

LG VX5400

LG CU515

Samsung Juke SCH-u470

Motorola RAZR2 V8

Boost Mobile i425

Motorola RAZR V3c

The STK X2 does this well, and still manages to bring a desirable design and decent specs. We haven’t spent long with the phone or tested the camera yet; but we like what we see. We also think many will read this and think, “I know someone who needs a phone like this,” because not everyone is about owning the latest, greatest, $1,000 device.

Price and availability

The STK X2 will go on sale in the U.K., Europe, South America, and several other regions in April through the company’s website, Amazon, and other online retailers. At the time of writing STK has no current plans to launch its phones in North America, but is keen to do so in the future.

26
Feb

Samsung Galaxy S9 vs. Galaxy S9 Plus: Is bigger always better?


The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are finally here, showcasing a number of awesome new features, top-tier specs, and what could turn out to be a pretty ground-breaking new camera. The new phones may not look all that different from their predecessors, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus, but they clearly still have a lot to offer.

But which one is the one for you? The Galaxy S9 Plus isn’t just a bigger version of the Galaxy S9 — it also offers a few extra features that might be important. Here’s our comparison of the two phones, aimed at helping you figure out which phone is the best choice for your needs.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Size
147.6 x 68.7 x 8.4 mm (5.81 x 2.70 x 0.33 in)
157.7 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm (6.21 x 2.91 x 0.33 inches)

Weight
163 grams (5.75 ounces)
189 grams (6.67 ounces)

Screen
5.8-inch AMOLED display
6.2-inch AMOLED display

Resolution
2960 x 1440 pixels (568ppi)
2960 x 1440 pixels (531ppi)

OS
Android 8.0 Oreo
Android 8.0 Oreo

Storage
64GB
64GB

MicroSD card slot
Yes
Yes

NFC support
Yes
Yes

Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

RAM
4GB
6GB

Connectivity
GSM / HSPA / LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
GSM, HSPA, LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

Camera
12MP rear, 8MP front
Dual 12MP rear, 8MP front

Video
2160p @ 30fps, 1080p @ 60fps, 720p @ 960fps HDR
2160p @ 30fps, 1080p @ 60fps, 720p @ 960fps HDR, dual-video rec.

Bluetooth
Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth 5.0

Audio
Headphone jack, stereo speakers
Headphone jack, stereo speakers

Fingerprint sensor
Yes, rear-mounted
Yes, rear-mounted

Other sensors
Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate, SpO2
Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, heart rate, SpO2

Water resistance
IP68-rated
IP68-rated

Battery
3,000mAh

Fast charging (Quick Charge 2.0)

Qi and PMA wireless charging

3,500mAh

Fast charging (Quick Charge 2.0)

Qi and PMA wireless charging

Charging port
USB-C
USB-C

Marketplace
Google Play Store
Google Play Store

Colors
Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple
Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple

Availability
Samsung, Amazon, Best Buy, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint
Samsung, Amazon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon

Price
$720
$840

DT review
Hands-on review 
Hands-on review

The two phones feature similar specs, to be sure, but the Galaxy S9 Plus clearly has an advantage under the hood.

Let’s start with the similarities between the two devices. For starters, you’ll get the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, which is Qualcomm’s latest and greatest smartphone mobile chip. You’ll also get the same 64GB of storage, and a MicroSD card slot to expand upon that storage if you so choose.

There’s one big difference here, and that’s the fact that the Galaxy S9 Plus features 6GB of RAM, rather than the 4GB of RAM you’ll find in the standard Galaxy S9. That could help make the larger phone a little more powerful, especially for those that multitask a lot.

The phones are similar, and most will find the Galaxy S9 plenty powerful, but, because of its extra RAM, the Galaxy S9 Plus edges out the smaller phone.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Design and display

The phones don’t just feature similar specs. They also offer almost identical designs. It’s a very nice design though. The front is largely taken up by the beautifully curved Infinity Display, with features like the Iris Scanner and front-facing camera in a sleek forehead at the top of the phone.

Around the back of the device, you’ll find the fingerprint sensor and camera. That’s one of the biggest differences between the standard Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus — the Plus model features a dual-sensor camera, and you’ll see that in the slightly bigger camera module on the back. On the back, you’ll also find that the fingerprint sensor has been moved a little, which is a good thing. The sensor is now much more accessible, and should be far easier to use. The phones also still feature the Bixby button, which you’ll probably either love or hate.

The display on the phone is also pretty similar, though it’s bigger on the Galaxy S9 Plus. The standard-sized phone features a 5.8-inch AMOLED display, while the larger phone boasts a 6.2-inch AMOLED display. Both devices feature a resolution of 2,960 x 1,440 pixels, and as a result the pixel density on the smaller device is a little higher. Still, it’s a fair trade-off for a slightly bigger screen, and most people won’t be able to tell the difference anyway.

Winner: Tie

Camera

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The camera is perhaps the biggest point of difference between the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy S9 Plus, though both cameras offer some pretty awesome features. The standard Galaxy S9 features a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera, while the Galaxy S9 Plus features a dual rear-facing camera with a 12-megapixel main lens and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens.

Both devices offer one feature that we’ve never seen on a smartphone before: A variable aperture. What that means is that users can switch the aperture between f/1.5 and f/2.4, which should help make for much better low-light shots, and better control for those that like to dive into manual shooting. You’ll actually see the aperture change on the back of the phone as you switch it — it’s a mechanical feature.

The camera also offers some other pretty cool features. For example, it boasts ultra high-speed video recording at a massive 960 frames per second, though it can only record for a fraction of a second.

As mentioned, the Galaxy S9 Plus offers a dual rear-facing camera, which unlocks a few new features — including a portrait mode, live focus, and 2x optical zoom.

Because of those new features, the Galaxy S9 Plus is the winner here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Battery life and charging

Because the Galaxy S9 Plus is a bigger phone, there’s simply more room for the battery. The standard Galaxy S9 features a 3,000mAh battery, while the bigger phone offers a 3,500mAh battery. It does have a larger display to power, but we think that it’ll still boast longer battery life.

The phones offer a few great charging options. The S9 and S9 Plus, like many Samsung phones before them, feature wireless charging through both the Qi and PMA standards. There’s also fast charging through Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0. Because of the larger battery, we’re awarding this one to the Galaxy S9 Plus.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Software

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus feature Android 8.0 Oreo, and over the top you’ll find Samsung’s own software. The phones offer all the features you would expect from Android Oreo — including the likes of picture-in-picture mode. Of course, you’ll also get Samsung-specific features such as Bixby.

In general, Bixby hasn’t been very highly reviewed, and it doesn’t seem as though the digital assistant has been upgraded a whole lot for the new phone.

The software on the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus isn’t all that different from what you’ll find in the Galaxy S8. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — many love Samsung’s take on Android, especially in recent years.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are set to be pretty widely available. The phones will be available for pre-order starting on March 2, with March 16 set to be the date that they become widely available online and in-store. Through Samsung, you’ll be able to get the standard device for $720, while the larger Galaxy S9 Plus comes at $840. The phone is also available through all major carriers in the U.S., as well as unlocked through other outlets. You can check out our full buying guide for the Galaxy S9 here.

The phones are available from all the same outlets — so here it’s down to price. Because of the fact that the Galaxy S9 is cheaper, it’s the winner here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

The better, more powerful phone is the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. Not only does it feature a little more RAM, but it also offers a slightly improved camera.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should go for the Galaxy S9 Plus over the standard version. If you don’t really care about the dual-sensor features, don’t multitask a lot, and don’t need a bigger display, then the Galaxy S9 is still an all-around excellent phone, with a ton of great features.


26
Feb

PureLiFi demos integrated Li-Fi in laptop and phone case at MWC


Li-Fi pioneer PureLiFi is focused on delivering internet access through lights, and it just demonstrated the technology at MWC 2018 integrated into a laptop and a phone case for the first time.

There are various potential applications for Li-Fi, but the main drive for its adoption comes from the impending spectrum crunch which will see radio frequencies stretched to the limit. It can also prove useful in environments where radio frequencies are dangerous or suffer too much interference, it offers enormous bandwidth in a small area, and it can be secured far more easily than Wi-Fi — because the signal is confined to the light.

We’ve tested out the LiFi-XC dongle with Li-Fi capable LED lights before, but it plugs in via USB. This time around we were able to stream video from the Digital Trends website via an overhead strip light, on a modified Dell laptop and a Samsung Galaxy S5 in a special case fitted out with the Li-Fi receiver. It’s capable of delivering speeds of up to 42Mbps up and down and we had no trouble streaming the latest Galaxy S9 hands-on review.

PureLiFi has been in talks with various manufacturers about embedding the technology into devices, but it’s not discussing specific partnerships just yet. Integrating the tech into the phone case and laptop is about showing off the concept and how it works. The receiver is still quite big, so it’s easier to integrate into a laptop than a smartphone, but the firm is working on further miniaturization, so that’s the longer term goal. We’re expecting to see Li-Fi enabled phones within the next three years, and adoption by a major player could see Li-Fi take off rapidly.

If you’d like to learn more about the technology, check out some of our earlier pieces on PureLiFi. We first encountered PureLiFi back at MWC 2016, at MWC last year we gave it our cool tech award, and in December we visited the Edinburgh office to see the new LiFi-XC dongle.

This latest demo is another step towards Li-Fi realizing its potential as a complementary technology to Wi-Fi, ensuring that we always have a fast internet connection.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Even when the airwaves clog up, Li-Fi will keep us connected
  • Amazon Fire TV review
  • Sonos vs. Bluesound: A Hi-fi, Wi-Fi Speaker System Shootout
  • Here are five features we’d like to see on the Samsung Galaxy S9
  • Tivoli Audio ART Model One Digital review


26
Feb

PureLiFi demos integrated Li-Fi in laptop and phone case at MWC


Li-Fi pioneer PureLiFi is focused on delivering internet access through lights, and it just demonstrated the technology at MWC 2018 integrated into a laptop and a phone case for the first time.

There are various potential applications for Li-Fi, but the main drive for its adoption comes from the impending spectrum crunch which will see radio frequencies stretched to the limit. It can also prove useful in environments where radio frequencies are dangerous or suffer too much interference, it offers enormous bandwidth in a small area, and it can be secured far more easily than Wi-Fi — because the signal is confined to the light.

We’ve tested out the LiFi-XC dongle with Li-Fi capable LED lights before, but it plugs in via USB. This time around we were able to stream video from the Digital Trends website via an overhead strip light, on a modified Dell laptop and a Samsung Galaxy S5 in a special case fitted out with the Li-Fi receiver. It’s capable of delivering speeds of up to 42Mbps up and down and we had no trouble streaming the latest Galaxy S9 hands-on review.

PureLiFi has been in talks with various manufacturers about embedding the technology into devices, but it’s not discussing specific partnerships just yet. Integrating the tech into the phone case and laptop is about showing off the concept and how it works. The receiver is still quite big, so it’s easier to integrate into a laptop than a smartphone, but the firm is working on further miniaturization, so that’s the longer term goal. We’re expecting to see Li-Fi enabled phones within the next three years, and adoption by a major player could see Li-Fi take off rapidly.

If you’d like to learn more about the technology, check out some of our earlier pieces on PureLiFi. We first encountered PureLiFi back at MWC 2016, at MWC last year we gave it our cool tech award, and in December we visited the Edinburgh office to see the new LiFi-XC dongle.

This latest demo is another step towards Li-Fi realizing its potential as a complementary technology to Wi-Fi, ensuring that we always have a fast internet connection.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Even when the airwaves clog up, Li-Fi will keep us connected
  • Amazon Fire TV review
  • Sonos vs. Bluesound: A Hi-fi, Wi-Fi Speaker System Shootout
  • Here are five features we’d like to see on the Samsung Galaxy S9
  • Tivoli Audio ART Model One Digital review


26
Feb

PureLiFi demos integrated Li-Fi in laptop and phone case at MWC


Li-Fi pioneer PureLiFi is focused on delivering internet access through lights, and it just demonstrated the technology at MWC 2018 integrated into a laptop and a phone case for the first time.

There are various potential applications for Li-Fi, but the main drive for its adoption comes from the impending spectrum crunch which will see radio frequencies stretched to the limit. It can also prove useful in environments where radio frequencies are dangerous or suffer too much interference, it offers enormous bandwidth in a small area, and it can be secured far more easily than Wi-Fi — because the signal is confined to the light.

We’ve tested out the LiFi-XC dongle with Li-Fi capable LED lights before, but it plugs in via USB. This time around we were able to stream video from the Digital Trends website via an overhead strip light, on a modified Dell laptop and a Samsung Galaxy S5 in a special case fitted out with the Li-Fi receiver. It’s capable of delivering speeds of up to 42Mbps up and down and we had no trouble streaming the latest Galaxy S9 hands-on review.

PureLiFi has been in talks with various manufacturers about embedding the technology into devices, but it’s not discussing specific partnerships just yet. Integrating the tech into the phone case and laptop is about showing off the concept and how it works. The receiver is still quite big, so it’s easier to integrate into a laptop than a smartphone, but the firm is working on further miniaturization, so that’s the longer term goal. We’re expecting to see Li-Fi enabled phones within the next three years, and adoption by a major player could see Li-Fi take off rapidly.

If you’d like to learn more about the technology, check out some of our earlier pieces on PureLiFi. We first encountered PureLiFi back at MWC 2016, at MWC last year we gave it our cool tech award, and in December we visited the Edinburgh office to see the new LiFi-XC dongle.

This latest demo is another step towards Li-Fi realizing its potential as a complementary technology to Wi-Fi, ensuring that we always have a fast internet connection.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Even when the airwaves clog up, Li-Fi will keep us connected
  • Amazon Fire TV review
  • Sonos vs. Bluesound: A Hi-fi, Wi-Fi Speaker System Shootout
  • Here are five features we’d like to see on the Samsung Galaxy S9
  • Tivoli Audio ART Model One Digital review


26
Feb

Google adds Actions for Assistant support in 16 new languages


At the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Google and its ubiquitous Assistant made some big promises, and now, it’s making even more of them. On February 26, the tech giant announced that Actions on Google (similar to skills on Alexa) now support 16 languages. Moreover, these Actions will also soon boast better geo capabilities, as well as Android app integrations.

The announcement comes at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where once again Google seeks to be the star of the show. Already, Actions on Google Assistant are available on more than 400 million devices, but the company hopes to expand accessibility even further. International developers can now build Actions in seven new language: Hindi, Thai, Indonesian, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Dutch. And given that supported languages already include English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Russian, these new additions bring the total count of supported languages to an impressive 16.

As Google product manager Brad Abrams noted in a blog post, “All Actions can be developed using Dialogflow and its natural language processing capabilities, or directly with the Actions SDK.” To further incentivize folks to build apps in these new languages, Google is offering up to $200 of monthly Google Cloud credit for developers publishing their first Actions.

And in addition to supporting new languages, Google is also “making it easier to build [Actions] for global audiences.” Developers can now create an Action simply by filling in a Google Sheet without writing a single line of code thanks to templates, which are available in French, German, and Japanese. Plus, Abrams wrote, “We’ve made it a little easier for you to localize your Actions into different languages by enabling you to export your directory listing information as a file. With the file in hand, you can translate offline and upload the translations to your console, making localization quicker and more organized.”

Google isn’t stopping with its ambitious plans for Assistant. The company plans to have the AI helper reach 95 percent of all eligible Android phones across the world by the end of 2018, and to help with that, has introduced a new feature that allows developers to deep link from Actions in the Google Assistant to a specific intent in an Android app. And as these links are integrated into Actions, developers can make it easier for their users to find what they need, and make for a better experience altogether.

“Today’s updates are part of our commitment to improving the platform for developers, and making the Google Assistant and Actions on Google more widely available around the globe,” Abrams concluded. “If you have ideas or requests that you’d like to share with our team, don’t hesitate to join the conversation.”

Editors’ Recommendations

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26
Feb

Lenovo takes wraps off Windows 10, Chromebook device lineup at MWC


With Mobile World Congress 2018 now underway, Lenovo formally introduced six new devices making an appearance during the show. The list consists of three Windows 10 PCs of the Flex and Yoga flavors, and three “E-class” Chromebooks falling under the $360 mark. All three Windows 10 devices rely on eighth-generation Intel Core i7 processors while the Chromebooks range from Intel Celeron and MediaTek chips. 

Windows 10

For this family, we have the Flex 14, and two Yoga 730 devices with 13.3-inch and 15.6-inch screens. All three are 2-in-1 devices, meaning they have hinges supporting Laptop, Tent, Stand, and Tablet modes. The 13.3-inch Yoga 730 is the thinnest and lightest of the three, measuring just 0.55 inches thick and weighing 2.46 pounds. All three support Lenovo’s Active Pen stylus. 

For gamers, the 15.6-inch Yoga 730 with the optional GeForce GTX 1050 graphics chip is the ideal choice of the three. The GeForce MX130 in the Flex 14 would be your second-best bet given it’s better than integrated graphics, but it’s based on an older design and won’t have the performance you’ll see in the Yoga 730’s discrete GTX 1050 chip. 

According to Lenovo, the two Yoga units include integrated support for both Cortana and Alexa. “Use Cortana on your Yoga 730 during the day to schedule meetings, get reminders, search and send emails and manage to-do lists with just your voice,” the company says. “Or just ask to order food, do your shopping, dim the lights and turn up the music at night with Alexa.” 

Here are the specifications for all three along with their availability and prices: 

 

Flex 14 

Yoga 730 13 

Yoga 730 15 

Screen size: 

14 inches 

13.3 inches 

15.6 inches 

Screen type: 

In-Plane Switching 

In-Plane Switching 

In-Plane Switching 

Screen resolution: 

Up to 1920 x 1080 

Full HD or Ultra HD 

Full HD or Ultra HD 

Processor: 

Intel 8th Gen Core i7 

Intel 8th Gen Core i7 

Intel 8th Gen Core i7 

Graphics: 

Up to GeForce MX130 

Integrated 

Up to GeForce GTX 1050 

Memory: 

Up to 16GB DDR4 

Up to 16GB DDR4 

Up to 8GB DDR4 

Storage: 

Up to 512GB PCIe SSD 

Up to 512GB PCIe SSD 

Up to 1TB PCIe SSD 

Connectivity: 

Wireless AC 

Wireless AC 

Wireless AC 

Ports: 

1x USB-C 3.1 Gen1
2x USB-A 3.1 Gen1
1x HDMI
1x SD card slot
1x Audio jack 

2x Thunderbolt 3
1x USB-A 3.1 Gen1
1x Audio jack 

2x USB-A 3.1 Gen1
1x USB-C 3.1 Gen1
1x HDMI
1x Audio jack 

Battery: 

Up to 10 hours 

Up to 11.5 hours 

Up to 11 hours 

Dimensions (inches): 

12.9 x 9.02 x 0.69 

12.08 x 8.52 x 0.55 

14.17 x 9.80 x 0.67 

Weight: 

3.25 pounds 

2.46 pounds 

4.16 pounds 

Pen support: 

Yes 

Yes 

Yes 

Style: 

2-in-1 

2-in-1 

2-in-1 

Colors: 

Onyx Black 

Iron Grey
Platinum Silver 

Iron Grey
Platinum Silver 

Availability: 

April 

April 

April 

Starting price: 

$599 

$879 

$899 


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