Tag: Review

WileyFox Spark X Quick Review

Posted by – October 22, 2016

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

The WileyFox Spark X is the “top of the range” budget phone from WileyFox. Priced at £139 – just £10 more than the RRP as the original WileyFox Swift, it now has a larger 5.5inch screen, bigger battery, and updated selfie camera.

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

AnTuTu Benchmark gives it a score of: 31,676, (3D: 3268, UX: 12243, CPU: 11703, RAM: 4462) so gaming is not going to be a strong point. (As a comparison the Samsung Galaxy S5 scored 60,380, and the new Sony Xperia XZ scored: 136,989)

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – Dual sim slots, and a MicroSD slot.

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – Speaker grill is copper / orange

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – 13mp camera on the back

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – Removable back and removable battery

The phone doesn’t really feel like a budget smartphone, but ever since the Moto G, and subsequent models the quality of budget smartphones has improved massively.

The phone is solid, and has a number of stylish touches, such as a coppery chrome surround, a copper speaker grill at the front, as well as a copper fox logo on the back, there’s also a copper surround around the camera lens on the back.

(Compared to the current Moto G, the Moto G4, the Moto G4 is around £160, has a FullHD 5.5inch screen, 8-core processor, 16GB, a 13mp, f/2.0 camera, is waterproof and scores an Antutu Benchmark score of: 46,614 – Source)

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – 3000mAh battery

The screen looks good, and the screen is bright, and it’s not really obvious that the screen is a 1280×720 resolution.  The phone comes with a pre-fitted protective film, although it’s quite thin, so not going to protect it from drops.

In use, the phone is responsive, and does a good job with all the things I’ve used it for. Youtube, Facebook, etc.

The default keyboard is reasonable, but doesn’t have the numbers on a separate line, which is a shame, as a 5.5inch screen is easily big enough to accommodate this. Personally I use SwiftKey, and switch on the number row.

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – Rear speaker grill

The phone has a decent speaker.

Lets go over the main specifications compared to the WileyFox Swift, with the Spark X on the left, and the Swift on the right:

WileyFox Spark X WileyFox Swift
13mp f/2.8 main camera (Samsung, 4mm)
8mp selfie camera
5.5inch screen 1280×720 (IPS, 2.5d Dragontrail glass)
1.3GHz Quadcore (Mediatek 6735, 64-bit)
Removable 3000mAh battery
154.35 x 78.6 x 8.75mm (thinner)
162.9g (with battery)
Black
13mp f/2.5 main camera, Samsung BSI CMOS, Dual-flash
5mp selfie camera
5inch screen, 1280×720 (Gorilla Glass 3)
1.2GHz Quadcore (Snapdragon 410, 64-bit)
Removable 2500mAh battery
141.15mm x 71mm x 9.37mm
135g
Available in black or white
Same: FullHD video recording (rear and front camera)
Same: 2GB / 16GB built in
Same: MicroSD slot
Same: Dual SIM slots

Sat-nav using Google Maps works reasonably well (not perfect, but good enough), the speaker is loud enough. Call quality is reasonably good.

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – Close up of camera, top headphone socket

Camera – When recording video (FullHD, 30fps) you can take FullHD resolution photos at the same time. The camera app has auto, steady photo, night, HDR shooting modes. Panoramic as well.

WileyFox Spark X Aston Martin Photo

WileyFox Spark X Aston Martin Photo

Unboxing video:

WileyFox Swift Quick Review

Posted by – March 9, 2016

WileyFox Swift Back

The WileyFox Swift is made by a UK company, WileyFox, who currently sell two models, the Swift is the entry level model, priced at around £130 (Cashback offer between 1st March – 25th March 2016), with the higher spec model, the Storm, priced at around £200. The Swift runs Cyanogen OS (currently 12.1.1), a user developed version of Android (currently 5.1.1).

WileyFox Swift Camera View

The WileyFox Swift, as a “budget” Android smartphone is competing with a number of other models, but offers an impressive range of features and specifications, considering the price point.

WileyFox Swift Key Features:

  • 13mp main camera, Samsung BSI CMOS sensor, Dual-flash
  • 5mp selfie camera
  • FullHD video recording (rear and front camera)
  • 5inch screen, 1280×720 (Corning Gorilla Glass 3)
  • 1.2GHz Quadcore (Snapdragon 410, 64-bit)
  • 2GB / 16GB built in
  • MicroSD slot
  • Dual SIM slots
  • Removable 2500mAh battery
  • 141.15mm x 71mm x 9.37mm
  • Available in black or white

WileyFox Swift

Alternatives include the following:

  • Moto G (3rd Gen): 5inch, 13mp f/2.0 cam, 1GB/8GB, 1.4ghz quadcore, 2470mAh, 155g, 11.6mm, £130
  • WileyFox Swift: 5inch, 13mp f/2.5 cam, 2GB/16GB, 1.2ghz quadcore, 2500mAh, 135g, 9.3mm, £130
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime: 5inch, 8mp f/2.2 cam, 8GB, 1.2ghz quadcore, 2600mAh, 156g, 8.6mm,£130
  • Lenovo K5: 5inch, 13mp cam, 2GB/16GB, 1.4ghz quadcore, 2750mAh, 142g, 8mm, £130
  • BLU Life Mark 4G: 5inch, 13mp f/2.0 cam, 2GB/16GB, 1.3ghz quadcore, 2300mAh, 150g, 9.5mm, £105
  • Huawei P8 lite: 5inch, 13mp f/2.0 cam, 2GB/16GB, 1.2ghz octacore, 2200mAh, 131g, 7.7mm, £139

To get the Moto G (3rd Gen) to match the memory provided with the Swift as standard you have to go for the £159 version, and other smartphones at this price point often compromise on other features, including a lower resolution camera, or a lower amount of storage space.

WileyFox-Swift Screen

The screen features a 720×1280 resolution, and the brightness can be adjusted easily. It’s quite bright on default settings, and seemed to be set so that it didn’t automatically adjust itself depending on the surrounding conditions (which was frustrating at first), and this was quickly resolved by finding the right settings.

The WileyFox Swift is reasonably quick and responsive, and the GPS and Sat-Nav features work well in real time, making it a suitable alternative to a dedicated SatNav device. Some budget smartphones, such as the Honor Holly (a £90 Android smartphone) can struggle, and seem a little slower in comparison. The Swift does not seem to have any problems playing back videos smoothly.

Battery life should last a day in theory, although it will also depend on how you use the phone, and we found that listening to music on the train with earbuds seems to drain the battery very quickly. Perhaps due to the phone regularly losing mobile phone signal going through tunnels. You could get a spare battery as the phone battery can be removed and replaced, or you could take a USB charger with you, and there are plenty of portable chargers available for not much money.

WileyFox-Swift Camera

The camera – it’s quite good, with a 13mp sensor, and f/2.5 aperture, and it’s certainly reasonable, although with no optical image stabilisation, and not an especially fast aperture compared to some smartphones, low-light photography can be tricky. I’d prefer it if the camera increased the ISO speed, with additional noise, rather than having a blurry photo (and low noise). (The Honor Holly is good at increasing the ISO speed, giving you a sharp but noisy image, and features an 8mp f/2.0 camera). The camera does feature twin LEDs, which can help with close subjects in low light.

I was unimpressed by the built in camera app and have switched to using Google’s photo app. There are a good range of options and shooting modes using this app, including photo sphere, panorama, lens blur, camera and video, as well as HDR.

Overall – For the price it’s very difficult to find an Android smartphone with a better specification, without compromising on something. The simple fact is, that at this price, you get a highly capable Android smartphone with a decent screen, relatively stylish looks, a good enough camera, and 2GB/16GB memory, which means you can get a good number of apps and music on without the smartphone feeling slow. For the more advanced user, or for someone who uses the camera a lot, in a variety of situations, the slow-ish aperture and poor low-light performance will most likely have you looking at other smartphones pretty quickly.

Pros: Price, specification, design, 2GB/16GB built in, reasonable 13mp camera, 5inch screen, fairly quick, good GPS performance with Satnav, light and slim.

Cons: As a UK only mobile phone, the availability of spare parts, accessories, or repair by 3rd parties may be more difficult compared to a main brand that is sold Worldwide. Camera and battery life could be better, but are fairly reasonable considering the price. Generic looks on the screen side.

Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T Ultrabook Review

Posted by – July 23, 2013

Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T

If you’ve seen any of my previous posts on here about netbooks/laptops etc, I much prefer the idea of a compact laptop with low power processors and decent specifications, rather than a powerful or top-end “netbook”. There seems a lot of cross-over, but my ideal laptop is actually called an “ultrabook” – most cost over £800 new, but a number of recent models, such as the Samsung Series 5 NP530 are available for around £500 new.

The Toshiba Satellite z830-10T is an ultra book that was launched a couple of years ago in late 2011 – a similar age to my Alienware M11x – and had a price of around £800. But is now available second hand for around £250, from ebay, which is where I got mine from. (I also didn’t want a brand new laptop, as I prefer Windows 7 to 8). The Toshiba Satellite Z830 has been replaced by the Toshiba Satellite Z930 (Amazon).

The Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T in a nutshell:

It has an Intel i3 1.4ghz dual core processor, 4gb of RAM (you can upgrade to 6Gb by replacing the 2gb DDR3 stick with a 4gb DDR3 stick for around £30!), 128gb SSD (which the Samsung Series 5 NP530 doesn’t feature), a 13.3″ matt screen, and a backlit keyboard. It’s thin, really thin, and really light at 1.1kg. It also promises around 8hours of battery life, however this will vary greatly on how much you use some of the more intensive battery drains, such as a bright screen, and the backlit keyboard.

Things that are important to me in a laptop: Screen. Keyboard. Battery life. Noise (and speakers). Performance. Size and weight. Warranty*.

So starting with the screen: It’s a 13.3inch screen with a 1366 x 768 resolution. So pretty standard for a small <14″ laptop. The screen is thin / slightly flexible / although it doesn’t seem as flimsy as the previous ultra compact laptop I tried, the Toshiba Portege R500. Viewing angles are better than I was expecting after reading some reviews of the Z830T. Also better than the Toshiba R500.

Toshiba Satellite Z830 Keyboard Lights

The keyboard: It’s backlit, when the lights are switched on, however you can’t see the function labels – as just the letters glow. It can be set to switch on for 15 seconds, then automatically time out when you don’t use the keyboard for 15seconds. I managed 61wpm with 1 mistake on an online typing speed test. The touchpad has a button above it so you can switch it off and on.

Battery lifeThis site says they got 7 hours from it. But how will it perform now that the laptop is over a year old?* It seems to get around 5 to 6 hours but you will get better or worse battery life depending on how bright you have the screen and what you are doing with it. There is a Toshiba Eco Utility app, this will bring power usage down to 7-11w by dimming the screen, keyboard and other things.

Noise: When the fan is off, the laptop is silent. Watching iPlayer for 20+ minutes fullscreen didn’t cause the fan to start. However, there are times when the fan does kick in, particularly in the summer, and it can get quite loud. There are a large number of seemingly unnecessary Toshiba apps that like to auto start and live in the taskbar next to the clock.

Speakers: Stereo speakers and “Dolby Advanced Audio” – at 50, playing iPlayer it’s loud enough for watching in the living room. (The screen is also bright enough and viewing angles are pretty decent). CPU usage was around 14-21% running iPlayer.

Toshiba Satellite Z830 Touchpad

Performance: Windows 7 (64bit) scores: Processor: 5.2, RAM (DDR3): 5.9, Graphics: 5.4, Gaming graphics: 6.1, Hard drive (SSD): 6.6.

Size and weight: This has become increasingly important for me, as I’ve traveled to various countries, and regularly traveled across Britain, with numerous trips down to London. This has made the Alienware M11x seem like a rather fat, chunky, and HEAVY laptop, making a rucksack/backpack feel very heavy for walking around, or just getting from one part of London to another on the tube.

Toshiba Satellite Z830 USB3

It’s thin, really thin… and doesn’t weigh much at all, just over 1Kg , this makes it fit neatly into you bag without adding too much weight.

W x D x H : 316.0 x 227.0 x 8.3 (front) / 15.9 (rear) mm
Weight : starting at 1.12 kg (does it weigh more if you put more ram in or a larger hard drive? or put stickers on it?)

Warranty: *On checking the Toshiba warranty information, the laptop shipped Mar 2013, so is around 15 months old, and came with a 1yr warranty. Which is debatable, as all products shipped in the UK/European union should be fit for purpose, with companies such as Dell now providing as standard a 2yr consumer warranty (but not for business purchases, go figure).

Other stuff that I like: USB3.0 port. SD card slot (essential). HDMI port, and two standard USB ports at the back.

Overall: The Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T is a stylish, compact laptop, with good performance, and it doesn’t weigh much or compromise too much on features or design. The matt screen is so much more pleasant to use than a reflective gloss screen, and a backlit keyboard is extremely useful in dim lit environments. The speakers are very good, the keyboard is quite good to type on and perhaps the biggest complaint I would have is the noise of the fan when it does kick in. However, for the price it is available for second hand, it is an excellent buy.

Full Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T specifications. (Toshiba)

HTC One SmartPhone Review (Phones)

Posted by – April 17, 2013

HTC One Home screen

The HTC One is HTC’s “flagship” devices with specs that impress, an “ultrapixel” camera, bright lens, optical image stabilisation, 32gb, a great 4.7inch full HD screen, and a thin, stylish aluminium / plastic body, it certainly looks good, and has a modern stylish interface, with the OS based on the latest version of Android v4.1.2 (HTC Sense 5.0).

HTC One rear

The speakers are good, as we’ve shown in our videos previously, however they lack bass as they still have to conform to the logic and limitations of the physical world. IE. you can’t get a lot of bass out of a tiny set of speakers. And they are quite tiny, well they have to be, otherwise they wouldn’t fit in the 9.3mm thick mobile phone.

HTC One Screen Close

One of the most impressive things about the HTC One, other than the design, and the excellent screen, and the sound, (okay there are many impressive things), but one thing that stands out, is just how smooth the operating system and apps are on the phone. They are fast, respond quickly, and smoothly when you drag tabs in Chrome for example. Web browsing on the phone looks great with the high resolution screen, and it’s a shame when sites force you to view the mobile friendly version.

HTC One Camera and LED

The HTC One’s home screens, with the impressive facebook/twitter home page, look modern and stylish and respond quickly, and make the Sony Xperia Z’s home screens (and icon design) look dated in comparison. The “highlights” page can let you see the latest content from facebook/twitter/calendar/zoe share/TV and feels like you’re using a really useful app. The HTC TV app lets you set your favourite programs and get reminders about whats on TV each day.

HTC One Top

Other cool things worth mentioning: Wide-angle front facing camera. 28mm f/2.0 rear camera (4mp), LED works quite well (for an LED).

HTC One USB

Negatives: Software third menu button – there is nowhere for the third menu button, so you have to rely on the app or phone giving you access to this, and this doesn’t always happen. Seems a strange design feature to leave out an important button, and in some apps this takes up screen space while it displays the button on screen.

HTC One Beats Audio Logo

Another negative is the delay in the HTC One coming to market – which may be due to manufacturing problems – the device we had, had a number of tiny cracks or lines in the white plastic body of the phone that fits in between the aluminium parts. We’re guessing that this is due to this being from an early production phone, and hopefully this won’t be seen in ones being sold to consumers.

HTC One Screen

While the Ultrapixel camera will give you much better low light photographs than the majority of other smartphones (such as the Nokia 808, iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S3 etc), due to it having a 4 megapixel sensor, f/2.0 lens and optical image stabilisation, it means that you are limited to a 4 megapixel camera. Which in good light is quite low resolution – particularly when other smartphones offer 8 or 13 megapixels (or even 41mp in the case of the Nokia Pureview 808) – and while these other cameras have crammed a lot of pixels into a small sensor, in bright sunny conditions they should be able to produce decent, sharp, detailed photos.

HTC One

Overall, while the HTC One makes an excellent smartphone with a speedy responsive screen that looks great, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying it for the camera alone, unless you take the majority of your photos in low-light. And then if you do, then aren’t you likely to get better results from a digital camera with a real flash? If you just want a great smartphone with an awesome screen, great speakers built in, and stylish design, and aren’t too fussed about the camera, then the HTC One would make a great choice. I certainly loved using it, and will definitely miss it when I have to send it back! (Photos of the HTC One taken with the Canon EOS 700D and 18-55 STM lens, you can click them to view full size.)

Yurbuds Ironman Series Red & Black Running Earbuds

Posted by – March 5, 2012

This is a set of running earbuds that my friend Josh asked me to review over on Recently Reviewed, so I’ve posted the review here too.

This set of earbuds makes the lofty claim that they are ‘guaranteed not to fall out’. A lofty claim for sure, so evidence will be scrutinised.

Unboxing

I have an Audioboo account and I’ve posted a brief podcast detailing the unboxing and first impressions here. Photos below.

More…

Alienware M11x (Dell) Ultra Compact Laptop Review

Posted by – June 7, 2011

It’s a tiny laptop with an 11.6 inch screen, ultra low power CPU, and a monster Nvidia graphics card. It has 4gb of ram (DDR3), a 500gb hard drive (7200rpm, Seagate), and no optical drive. It’s got cool colours too, like a light up alien on the back of the monitor, a glowing alienware logo, an alien head power button, a glowing keyboard and bright glowing speaker holes at the front of the laptop.

The keyboard is almost exactly the same size as a full size laptop but touch typing is a little more difficult at the keys are flatter than normal and the gap in-between the keys doesn’t seem as large.

Dell Alienware M11x

Alienware M11x - Reflective Screen

It’s got one of those gloss reflective screens – and it’s MASSIVELY reflective. If you are running on the battery then the default brightness is so low you only see yourself staring back at you, and you have to turn the brightness up. It seems much more reflective (read: worse) than the gloss screen on the Samsung Q430 that I recently had. The blacks aren’t very black, there seems to be a lot of “backlight bleed” with the whole screen looking mostly grey. The default black wallpaper doesn’t give a good first impression of the screen – as all you can see is yourself in the reflection. (If I wanted to see myself I would have bought a mirror!)

Also it’s LOUD – after running the Windows Experience index two times, the fan in the laptop stayed on for a long time … and has not yet shut up, despite CPU usage hovering around 10% while I’m typing this. You can overclock the processor in the Dell BIOS – the options are Overclock : Enable, and Disable (which is the default).

Alienware Lights

Alienware Lights

The speakers built into the laptop seem very good. 50% volume is too loud for close use. The volume of iPlayer for example can easily be set to be louder than the volume of the fan, however it’s not very silent – and doesn’t tend to stay silent when watching.

The default speed is 1.3ghz, you can overclock the laptop in the BIOS, see here, for the scores and much more information about the laptop. Boosts CPU / RAM score from 4.1 / 4.8 to 4.6 / 5.4. GFX for both desktop and 3D is 6.5 and disk score 5.9. I think you can even turn down the performance of the GFX – perhaps this would make the laptop quieter?

Windows Experience Scores: M11x: CPU: 4.1 RAM: 4.8 GFX: 6.4 3D GFX: 6.4  HDD: 5.9 (Nvidia, CPU 1.3ghz)
Windows Experience Scores: Q430: CPU: 6.3 RAM: 5.9 GFX:4.9 3D GFX: 5.9 HDD: 5.9
Windows Experience Scores: 1510:  CPU: 4.8 RAM: 4.8 GFX: 3.5 3D GFX: 3.5  HDD: 5.1
Windows Experience Scores: R500:  CPU: 2.8 RAM: 4.2 GFX: 2.2 3D GFX: 3.0 HDD: 5.1

Yes – you can switch between graphics cards the NVidia GeForce graphics, or the “discrete” built in graphics – using FN + F6 – the built in graphics being “Mobile Intel 4 Series Express Chipset” / “Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD” with 64mb dedicated memory.

GeForce GT 335M – dedicated video memory 1024mb – switching between the modes is quite quick although if the graphics processor is in use, it asks you to close the program before it will switch. There is a slight degradation of image quality when switching to the Intel graphics – and it’s noticeable on the external display more than the internal laptop screen (Seiko / Epson Laptop Display) – for example on an external 22inch screen. The text isn’t as crisp, but the display is quite stable.

Using the Intel graphics seems to keep the laptop quiet(er). Watching iplayer even – (the laptop CPU usage averages around 29%) – the laptop settles down to a nice quiet purr. There is still a fan running, but it’s nice to see that there’s a quiet mode as well.

More on the screen – it’s very fingerprint prone – so not only is it super reflective, you also need to make sure you don’t touch it. It also has a large border and dare I say it, it looks kind of 90s – like Star Trek The Next Generation – trying to be futuristic but in reality looking kind of dated. (More to be added…)

Pros:
+ Good value for money now that Dell are offering it for £498
+ Switchable between Intel gfx (quiet, low power), or Nvidia (loud, good for games)
+ Overclock friendly – need more speed, switch it on in the BIOS
+ Built in SIM card slot! (Firewire, PATA)
+ Metal bottom to laptop, alienware fabric sleeve
+ Excellent battery life

Cons:
– Can be really loud when using Nvidia graphics
– Not entirely convinced by the keyboard (yet)
– Reflective gloss screen (although it’s less reflective with a brighter wallpaper)
– SD / Memory cards stick out when in the reader
– Keyboard marks the screen when the laptop is closed