The phone has an impressive specific for the price, available for 99 ish pounds online (or much less second hand) without the need of top up. You can even get 30 pounds off if you search hotukdeals or moneysavingexpert making it better than last years San Francisco, and many would say the San Francisco 2.
It looks a lot like one of the early iPhones with rounded corners and the same or similar tiny bit of Silver and black. Although the corners are white plastic and while it takes away from the simple design it should provide additional protection if dropped. Even the position of the on / off, lock button, is in the same place as the iPhone lock button.
The home, back and menu buttons are flush with the screen and glow a bright white. And look good, With the whole overall look and design of the phone giving it all much more premium feel that the 99 pounds would suggest possible. Although the silver on the back of the phone does scratch easily.
The stock install comes with a few Vodafone apps pre-installed but these aren’t excessive and thankfully the theme is left alone without horrible branded colours and wallpaper *cough* San Francisco.
It includes a 5mp AF camera with single LED “flash” light. Outdoors in good light the camera can take decent photos.
Theme Park works well although it can take a while to become smooth.
WordPress doesn’t seem totally happy in Android. Making editing and formatting a little difficult.
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 The Toshiba Satellite Z830 has been replaced by the Toshiba Satellite Z930 (Amazon).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.
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 life: This 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Other cool things worth mentioning: Wide-angle front facing camera. 28mm f/2.0 rear camera (4mp), LED works quite well (for an LED).
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.
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.
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.
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.)
DigiCamReview has reviewed the 12 megapixel Nokia N8 after using it for 18 months, while ePHOTOzine has reviewed the 41 megapixel Nokia PureView 808. Both camera phones run Symbian, and feature Carl Zeiss lenses, and Xenon flash – which helps massively in low light situations. Here’s what ePHOTOzine had to say about the 41 megapixel Nokia PureView 808:
“Looking at the detail resolved in these images, it shows more detail than 24 megapixel APS-C Digital SLRs, and provides very similar levels of detail to the 36 megapixel Nikon D800, albeit with more noise visible in the image.”
Sony MDR-570, £17.99, Amazon UK – Orange, stylish, nice texture, feel decent padding to the ears, gold plated socket, sound is fairly decent when heard without any reference point. BUT in comparison to the Koss Porta Pros (£17.99, Amazon UK) they aren’t anywhere near as clear, crisp, dynamic, or bass driven, and need more volume from the source to match the volume level of the Koss headphones. They also need quite a lot of pressure (holding them to your ears) to get the best sound from them, they have a lot of treble at the top end, but generally sound muffled, and unclear, in the mid range especially.
Rating: 3/5. Good for value for money and good looks, not so much the sound.
Not as large as a 15.6″ laptop, and not as small as a netbook, but slightly larger than 13.3″ laptops, the Samsung Q430 offers everything you’d get with a laptop, but comes in at a netbook similar price, has a battery life approaching a netbook, and is lighter than your standard laptop. What else does it feature to make it stand out? Well compared to it’s smaller brother, the Q330, the Q430 features a dedicated Nvidia Geforce (Cuda) graphics with it’s own 512mb memory. See below for it’s key features:
Samsung Q430 Features:
– Intel Core i3 350 2.26ghz CPU (dual core with hyperthreading – enabling 4 cpus)
– 4GB RAM (DDR3 – 3.86gb available)
– 320gb HD
– 14 inch 1366×768 16:9 screen with LED backlight (gloss – boo!*)
– NVidia Geforce 310m 512mb GFX
– Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
– Built in webcam, SD card reader, HDMI out, 3 USB sockets, ethernet, wifi etc
First switch on – easy enough, quick to go through the Windows setup process, entering the laptop name, wifi connection etc, then “Samsung Software Installing” takes over… and 20 minutes later you’ll still be waiting for it to finish installing… what I do not know (yet). But it’s probably stuff you don’t want clogging up your laptop… this is a somewhat frustrating start, as it doesn’t tell you what it’s installing or give you any explanation or choice regarding whether you want it or not.
Part of this is to ask you to partition your hard drive (I went for default settings, 160/120gb for C and D or something similar). Then after about 30 minutes in total you end up on a nice shiny blue Windows desktop. IE8 comes pre-installed, and comes with mcafee site advisor / mcafee security centre, google toolbar, already installed and active.
Design: Latch-less shiny black lid. Silver inside. Quite rattley plastic silver, textured to appear as metal, but you can tell it’s not. The keyboard looks neat with square black keys much like an Apple laptop, or Sony Vaio. There’s also an extra row on the very right hand side with Del, Home, PgUp, PgDown, End which should make it easier to access compared my current laptop (a Dell Vostro 1510), and the \ and / slash keys are in the correct place (unlike my current Vostro!). There are not really any dedicated volume controls apart from the FN + Left/Right buttons, on the keyboard. The trackpad’s mouse buttons are good with little travel and a re-assuringly responsive click.
Idle volume: the idle volume of the laptop is quite noticeable – there is a constant fan noise even when the CPU is doing very little. The Vostro 1510 on the other hand is silent unless under quite heavy load.
Samsung Q430 Volume Controls
The keyboard is really quite good and takes very little time to get used to so that you can quickly start touch typing on the laptop. Although the wrist rest area is a little small, as the keyboard is not as far back as some other laptops, the keyboard is still quite comfortable to type on.
Samsung Q430 Side Ports
Screen: gloss is bad for reflections, when looking at a black background you’ll either see a reflection of yourself or lights or other (terrible outdoors in the sun for example), however, the black is often very black and the gloss finish makes photos look very colourful, rich, saturated, etc, almost like a high quality photo print. The optimal viewing angles for the screen aren’t great, although when you do angle it correctly the blacks are very black, angle it wrong and you get what looks like backlight bleed. The screen is also quite low, so long periods of looking at the screen with your head bent down may not be the best for you.
Samsung Q430 DVD Drive
Flickering VGA output? using the VGA cable connected to an external monitor, the screen / image seems to wobble / flicker… fault or just a design / quality flaw – is this something they all do?? It’s worse when you are using the mouse, so could be power related, however, if the cheaper Vostro 1510 doesn’t do this, then a more expensive machine shouldn’t do this!
Battery life – Fully charged, Windows says the battery should last 3 hours.
As someone who uses an external monitor when using the laptop on a desk, I find the flickering of the external display really quite disappointing. (Something a budget Vostro 1510 doesn’t suffer from) Likewise, after using the virtually silent Vostro 1510 (the only noise you hear most of the time is the hard drive accessing), I find the default / idle noise of the Samsung Q430 disappointing. The first issue seems like it may be a fault, the second, seems like a design or configuration flaw. I don’t know whether I can learn to live with these issues… 🙁 (I’m wondering whether I would have been better off with the Intel graphics based Q330… even though it has a smaller screen…)
+ 14inch screen / compact size
+ Good keyboard – good layout, and easy to touchtype
+ Good spec for the price
– Flickering VGA output
– Loud fan (even when CPU idle)
– Would be nice to have a slot loading drive
– unimpressed by the memory card reader – easily loses contact
Previously touched on, but worth a more detailed look in my opinion. They provide a good amount of sound isolation, blocking out background noise, whilst also keeping the noise in, therefore making them useful for crowded situations as they are less likely to disturb anyone nearby. They’re also much cheaper than typical sound canceling headphones (that normally cost upwards of £65). Although, the cost also means there do seem to be some occasional quality issues, anyway, lets dive in with some of the cheapest…
These four aspects seem to be important when buying and using in-ear earphones: Sound quality, Build quality, fitment, and price, so I’ll rate each based on this, and then give a total score.
Creative Labs EP-630 (Best Overall Value) – from £8 – £12 from Amazon UK
Excellent for the price (value 9/10). Good buds – fitment wise they are very good (9/10). Good cable, build quality and design are very good for the price – assuming you get them for £8 (9/10), or £12 (8/10). Sound (7/10), very good sound but very bass driven, and not as crisp as others. Overall: 8.25/10
JVC Marshmallow FX-34 – around £10 on Amazon UK
Cheapest foam earphones available (upgraded by the FX-35), slightly too large plastic can make them too large. Sound quality is very good, although can take some “run in”, and mine started failing after around 3 months! Cable is good and doesn’t seem to tangle. Good value for money – especially compared to other foam earphones – often costing much more. However, you can tell these are cheaply made, as the foam slides on, rather than clips on. Sound 8/10 (strong bass), Build 5/10, Fitment 6/10 (Can be too big for some people), Value 9/10. Overall: 7/10
Philips SHE-8500 – around £12 on Amazon UK
Very good sound. Not very good rubber buds – too soft making the fitment* lose and difficult to get complete isolation from the surrounding noises. Poor quality cable, not very flexible, feels cheap, and brittle, and tangles easily. Poor design of plastic (square) making any contact with ear while fitting them uncomfortable. Sound quality: 9/10, build quality: 5/10, fitment: 5/10, value: 8/10. Overall: 6.75/10
Nokia BH-214 (Best value bluetooth) Bluetooth wireless earbuds – from £15 – £20 from Amazon UK
Great value for money, but sound quality not so great compared to others. You can use the bluetooth wireless numbers with other earphones, so can always use these as an entry into wireless earphones. Sound quality: 6-7/10 (Sound slightly worse when using the bluetooth adapter – less bass and clarity etc), build quality: 7/10 (jack is not gold plated), fitment: 8/10, value: 10/10 (includes Nokia charger as well). Overall: 7.75/10
Sennheiser CX-300 IIs (Winner!) – around £18 from Amazon UK^ – but sometimes more.
Good cable. Good buds. Best price / performance / quality in my opinion. In fact , if you can stretch (financially) to these, buy these and never look back. Sound 9/10 (perhaps not as bass driven as some of the others), Build 8/10, Fitment 9/10, Value 8/10 (inludes carry case / pouch). Overall: 8.5/10
Overall: The Sennheiser CX-300 II are clear winners, offering the best sound quality, fitment and build quality, at a reasonable price. The Creative Labs EP-630 offer a lot for the price, and are runners up. And the Nokia BH-214 are worth considering because they offer bluetooth connectivity at a very reasonable price.
* Fitment – correct fitment is key / essential to getting the best sound out of the earphones, not getting the correct fitment can mean the sound is completely lacking bass etc. This is the same with all of these in-ear style earphones.
^ Recommend purchasing directly from Amazon, to avoid potentially getting fake earphones.
The Orange San Francisco / ZTE Blade offers an extremely cheap entry into the world of Android. Priced around £99 (with a mandatory top up of £10/£20), it offers excellent value for money, and is one of the higher spec phones available around that price. Offering a large 3.5″ screen with a high resolution of 800×480, a 600mhz cpu, and 2gb of Micro SD ram.
Another big feature of the phone is the community support for the phone, allowing it to be unlocked for free (found via Modaco), and upgraded to Android 2.2 (Froyo), and potentially newer versions when they are released, it has it’s own dedicated forum here at Modaco.
Nokia N8 OLED - Orange San Francisco TFT
The “SanFran”, as some people affectionally call it, has 3 physical buttons at the bottom of the screen: Home, Menu, Back, one power button at the top, and volume buttons at the side, there is no dedicated camera button or unlock button. To unlock you press the power button and slide something on the screen based on what version of android (or screensaver) you have. Considering the whole touch screen ethos of the android operating system, it seems strange to have to use physical / moving buttons to navigate – it would make more sense for these to be soft touch buttons (as I’m sure other android phones do).
Box Contents: Phone, Battery, Orange SIM, Earphones with microphone (earbuds, NOT in-ear earphones), Wall charger (Plugs into wall and has USB socket), USB Cable (used to charge phone with wall-charge or plug into computer), User guides (quick start guide, printed 133 page manual, plus 2nd manual for orange software), 2GB MicroSD Card.
Phone quality – Making and receiving calls, the audio quality is very good, the speaker is loud and clear, and quality seemed very good with no feedback or echo noticeable. (Although you network coverage may alter your experience)
Music playback – full volume is still on the quiet side of things. The music player app is fine, nothing seems to be missing, but nothing stands out as particularly interesting either. It does the job, but only seems to work in portrait mode (and not landscape). Music playback is interupted by other app notifications!? (Could just be my OS build, 2.2, and even when the other notifications are set to silent!?)
Web browser – this is quick, responsive, and works well.
Some screenshots, click to enlarge, homescreen, app updates, task manager.
Android market (app store) – this has very nice integration with websites, you visit the site, click the link to download from the store, it takes you there and you click install, it then takes you back to the website and downloads and installs the app in the background. Very swish, very un-intrusive, very simple, very easy, the way it should be done. (I’m looking at you Nokia) It’s also ironic that you can get Snake free for the android – but no official version from Nokia for Nokia phones…
Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade Back / Battery / MicroSD / SIM slots
Expansion – Under the one piece back cover (made of plastic), you’ll find slots for the MicroSD card, SIM card, and battery. Small hole next to the camera lens – could be a reset button?
Battery – a 1250mah 3.7v battery.
Build and size: Slim, compact, the back cover covers the power button, and needs to be taken off / put back on carefully as, like the Nokia N95, it could cause problems if not treated with care or over-used. The plastic is coated with a rubbery texture, making the phone feel like a higher quality / higher price handset than it actually is, and internally the circuit boards seem very thin. The use of philips head screws make it very tempting to take apart…
Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade Taken Apart (Teardown)
There’s a hidden screw under a white dot, so no doubt taking it apart will void your warranty, there’s also a moisture detector dot under the battery, as shown above, and there are 8 screws in total holding the phone together, after taking these out, the phone then unclips with some encouragement – although you can help it along by pushing the clips surrounding the battery area – I didn’t want to go further than this as the rest looked like it needed the ribbon cables disconnecting, and this is often fiddly.
Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade TFT Screen Removed (back) - Click to Enlarge
To remove the front glass / case, you need to remove / disconnect the top ribbon cable that connects the *something* (don’t know what). The ribbon cable connections are held in place with plastic that “pops” up, and the wi-fi aerial also pops-off. The screen is quite firmly glued on to the main plastic “chassis” in the middle of the phone, and there is also a ribbon cable behind the main board connecting the top led and light sensor, and the volume control ribbon cable is soldiered on, and the buttons are glued onto the chassis, making it very difficult to disconnect / remove – it quickly becomes very fiddly.
Identifiable chips / components: (Click images above to enlarge, or to view additional images!) Top: Samsung SWB-A23 (Wifi, bluetooth), Qualcomm (hidden from view), Qualcomm PM754, AH56714, C1034003 (Power management), Underneath: Samsung 040, KA1000015M-AJTT, YK10338E (RAM), Qualcomm MSM7 (CPU, hidden from view), TriQuint 7M5012H, 1037, KORE, AT9366. Camera module: Made by MCNEX MC_32A2_48, 2010.06.04, the chip on the front of the phone, above the screen: 1KAAV0QW, Z1A0AD09.
Nokia N8 Camera with Flash - Orange San Francisco Camera with no Flash
Camera – 3.2 megapixel AF (Auto-focus) lens. Photos are awful. Terrible. Horrible. Utterly crap. Seriously substandard.
Other features? Impressions? The top bar shows you your notifications, things like texts, twitter or app notifications, and battery / connectivity status etc (3G, Bluetooth etc), but doesn’t actually let you interact with the notifications on the right of the bar… you can’t click the battery, for example, to see how much remains (like you can on Symbian ^3), instead you seem to have to go through the phones setting menu to get the information.
Updated conclusion: 6 months later: (10/07/2011) Some have said, in the comments that this review is overly negative, and somewhat lacking in it’s conclusion, and I agree. In retrospect, the ZTE Blade (Orange San Francisco) is still, to this day, 6 months later, one of the most fully featured, and lowest priced android phones available, and the good screen, and low price make it very apealling, especially with such a huge homebrew community of support. I bought it as I wanted to see what all the fuss about Android was, and I wasn’t as impressed as I felt I should have been, especially considering all the hype. There are areas of weakness such as the poor camera software (camera is poor on this phone, but may suffice in great weather, outdoors), and generally android isn’t as polished as I think it should be (this may have changed with newer versions, I tested 2.2). The ZTE Blade with a lower spec processor than most, won’t do flash, which is a huge drawback for me as I need iPlayer on my phone. Another big weakness is the high SAR levels (1.35 W/kg) – enough to give some users enough of an issue that they’ve seen a GP (Doctor) about it… Another big issue is the fact that everyone feels the need to mess with the google version of android, and try and add their own skin, apps, and money making programs to the phone. Very annoying. Anyway, to try and conclude this as quickly as possible, the ZTE Blade (OSF), is a great phone considering the price, and if well worth looking at if you’re on a limited budget and don’t mind the various issues the phone has.
+ High resolution 3.5″ capacitive screen (responsive)
+ Extremely good value for money
+ Easily unlocked, for free
+ Upgradable to Android 2.2
+ Tons of apps, good app store experience
+ Notification of app updates, and “Update all” button (not just OS)
+ Full screen PDF viewer (in QuickOffice)
– Home screens don’t work in landscape mode (see Symbian ^3, or Launcher Pro for Android)
– Music playback is interrupted by other app noises! (even when the phone and notifications are silent)
– Limited memory as standard (only 2gb MicroSD provided)
– AWFUL camera (see Nokia N8!), lacks even basic LED flash
– Fragmented OS / Features ie BBC iPlayer is supposed to work on 2.2 (using Flash*) but wouldn’t for me, 2.1 it just isn’t available (see Nokia / Apple)
– Poor battery life (8 hours)
– No strap loop / wriststrap mounting hole
– Camera shutter sound on, even when all sound muted.
– Default install location is the phones memory, not MicroSD, easy to fill the 512mb built in.
– Difficult to use one-handed (back button awkward – and pressing the background of the screen doesn’t take you back so you have to press the back button – easier on Symbian ^3 to just press the screen behind the pop up menu)
* Flash 10.1 is needed, which isn’t available for the ZTE Blade due to the ARM6 processor.
Features: – Web Browser – Office Document Viewer (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) – PDF Viewer – Flash 10 – DLNA Wireless Media Sharing
None of which tells you anything useful. Well, there are loads of things to talk bout with this phone so lets go.
It’s a 4.3 inch screen and it’s a bobby dazzler. Despite sounding massive it feels really natural in the hand. It’s noticably bigger than the iPhone but the weight and smooth contours make it easy to hold. The camera lens protrudes from the back a good few millimetres. I really thought that it would catch my palm and do my head in, but not at all. Ergonomically it’s a decent phone. Typing is tough with one hand unless you use the excellent, yet love it or hate it Swype. Swype lets you type with swipes, moving from one letter to the next without taking your finger off the screen. If it sounds weird it is at first, but now it’s a ‘how did I do without i?’ app for me. It’s predictive and lets you add to the dictionary. Provided you’re not typing nonsense words it is seldom wrong. There are no hard keys as such. They have been made in to touch sensitive buttons for Home, Menu, Back and Search. Gone completely is any trackball or trackpad. I don’t miss it.
Apps look great on screen and the touch screen is unintrusive and useful. Call quality is good but the bundled hands free kit is predictably crap. Terrible sound and earphones that fall out of your ears.At the bottom are the SIM and Micro SD slots, with a hatch that slides off so no need to turn the phone off or take the whole back off to remove either. Left side has a volume rocker, which can be hard to operate, rather irritatingly, and top left is power, again, irritating to access. Minor points but they do annoy me.
Lightning fast apps, switching, animations and functions make this phone a joy to use. However, the big issue. Battery life. When I started using this phone I was horrified at it’s 6-7b hour standby time. I thought it was faulty at first until I did some research, and here is how you get 30-40 hours out of it.
Accounts sync. I had a total of 11 accounts syncing, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, News, Weather, Stocks etc. They set themselves to sync every 15 minutes by default. Massive drain. I killed all bar the Google and Facebook accounts. Google updates every 2 hours and Facebook daily. This alone extended the life to a days’ use.
Install a task killer, kill all tasks that do not need to be running. This makes a huge difference.
Get rid of pointless apps. They are usually badly written and drain power. Apps like this are the price of the more open Android market, as opposed to Apple’s ‘Dolphin’s Butt’ approach.
There are other optional steps that I took.
I rooted the phone using VISIONary, a free app that needs no restart and doesn’t flash the phone.
Installed Titanium Backup free and deleted all the crapware that came with it. I dumped a load of pointless widgets, HTC bloatware apps that offered wallpapers etc and, astoundingly, there are two bundled Twitter apps with the phone, the official Twitter app and the HTC one called Peep. I use the far superior Tweetdeck so I have no use for those, off they went. A factory reset puts all of this back on the phone so you need not worry about that.
After this run the phone as normal for ten days, then drain it completely and calibrate the battery.
My battery clocks in at 30-40 hours business use now so it can be done, Don’t believe the propaganda. I am the sort to plug my phone in whenever possible anyway, always have been. It’s hardly Apple’s ‘It just works’ appeal but I like Android for playing with it so I’m not bothered, you might be.
Running widgets, particularly live feeds will drain it but it’s nothing to worry about.
Music is well played, no skips etc but you’ll need decent headphones as cheap ones sound tinny. The screen is perfect for iPlayer/YouTube and the playback is very good indeed. Sharp, vibrant and well-balanced with intuitive controls. YouTube lets you sign in to a different account from the phone which is a useful idea. Photos look crisp and sharp too. Flipping between landscape and portrait is snappy and works perfectly. The music app displays album art and controls music whilst the phone is locked without having accidental presses. Clever. You can install different ones if you like, notably Tune Wiki, but I see no need. There is some sort of Dolby sound thing going on here, but I have to be honest, in my experience the rule is spend a few quid and it sounds good. This phone doesn’t convince me otherwise. It sounds good, but if I am supposed to notice some sort of sound revelation, sorry. It sounds good provided you don’t use a terrible bit rate on MP3 files.
Google Maps and Navigation is there. It works snappily and the voice search is brilliant. No complaints. With it being a cloud based app there’s nothing new here that isn’t on other phones. What is new is HTC’s proprietary Locations application. It has several features. Free maps and mapping but navigation is a premium feature. Unless you’re a heavy user then navigation is free with Google. If you use it daily then buy the premium as Vodafone only give you a measly 750 MB data plan. I think this is taking the proverbial a little now. One gigabyte is not a huge amount so it’s clear they’re looking to squeeze a few pounds out of us on data.
Fortunately, the free element of Locations is offline mapping. No data usage, but sadly the database of locations is absolutely hopeless. It’s empty compared to Google Maps and as far as I can see it does not accept postcode searches. They had better update that pronto. If you search then every space sees a lag as it tries to match what you just typed. That is extremely irritating and a flaw that needs to be addressed. However, most of the time, if you give it the data it will find what you need. If so, then the maps have 2D and 3D views – very nice indeed – and they work with the compass so that the map turns wherever you are pointing it. No more walking for a bit to see which way you should be going. Very nice feature and one iPhone has had for ages. I can’t for the life of me figure out why Google haven’t done it with maps. Locations also does general keyword shops. You can select whatever category of place you want, e.g. pubs, and find the ones in the area along with ratings and reviews. This is very good and means no worries about using your data up on Google Maps. As an aside, as these apps move to the cloud then networks need to be fairer on data allowances. I would happily compromise on say, mapping and browsing only, no downloads or streaming, in exchange for unlimited 3G data. I think that is a better way to keep everyone happy. No nasty surprises in our bills and the networks don’t have to worry about media streaming brining 3G networks to their knees. I am sympathetic as the traffic on 3G has exploded since iPhone changed things, but then they’ve had three years to beef up their infrastructure. If they keep this up it will stink of profiteering. Having expensive data tariffs on always-online devices is a gun to the head scenario in my opinion.
GPS signal acquisition is lightning fast and as accurate as I have ever seen. Any thing like maps or navigation looks brilliant on that 4.3 inch screen.
Location services on this work really well. I know there are real concerns regarding privacy but I am all over location services like a fat kid on cake. I love them and can’t wait until they gain wider acceptance. Why, for example, can’t 20 Foursquare check-ins at a restaurant equal a free meal? There is an opportunity to make money here, and hopefully the right sort of thinkers will drive this. Foursquare is a great idea, but the app on here needs refining. It works fine, but searches can often be slow and it’s a little buggy. Not the phone’s fault, but a thought. Facebook works well and includes Places. Tweetdeck (or Peep/Twitter if you prefer) all permit location updates in tweets and geotagging photos os available too. This phone will stretch the possibilities for locatoin applications. It has the capability and the screen to be extraordinarily useful. We just need some original thinking from developers for apps and services. Bring it on.
The camera is 8 megapixels, twin LED flash and shoots HD video at 720p.
Here is a sample video from bonfire night:
Pretty good, I am sure you’ll agree. A couple of stills from the same night:
The OS is the bang up to date Android 2.2, smooth and fast. There is a vast array of sharing options, Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, Mail, YouTube. Uploads are a couple of taps and go just fine.
Internet and Mail
Gmail on this is great, push updates and notifications. The mail client works well with loads of options, including a unified inbox for all accounts. Nice touch. The browser works very well with smooth panning, zooming and pinching there, and in the rest of the apps too. Google search and voice search integrates brilliantly, giving local results for the device and net results too. I did install Firefox beta but for a beta release it has some terrible bugs, notably being the capitalising of the first letters of passwords, meaning you type it, then your full password, then go back and delete the capital. It’s easily fixed but that is a real balls up for something of Firefox’s standards. Quick look up works when you highlight text, you get the usual cut and paste options. The menu also gives ‘Quick Look Up’ as an option so you can get web and Wikipedia results for the highlighted text. Very good idea.Bookmarks are tiles and multiple pages are supported. plus map links and so forth open the relevant app rather than viewing in browser. Perfect touch there.
The market now allows auto-update and update all for installed apps. It restricts that by forcing manual update if application permissions have changed. That stops developers sneaking in data mining and sharing that you did not originally agree to. Thank you Google. The market is simple to browse and the app selection is huge. Not quite up with Apple and there is a fair amount of crapware in there, but there are some great pieces of software. Be wary that quality control is non-existent, which gives app developers freedom but also allows more seedy tactics like apps that are just there to serve ads, thus generating cash, and apps that don’t work properly. Read comments before installing.
The Nokia N8, aka the N8-00 – from Tesco Direct (currently the cheapest place to buy the phone without a contract) – is one of the latest smart phones from Nokia – running a new version of Symbian’s multi tasking operating system called Symbian^3, it also features one of the best cameras on any mobile phone, with a 12 megapixel sensor, and Xenon flash.
Main Features / Specifications:
12 megapixel camera, with Carl Zeiss lens and Xenon flash
HD Video recording – 720p – image stabilisation available (digital)
Previously, I’d questioned or rather suggested improvements I’d like to see implemented in the new Nokia N8 / Symbian^3 phone operating system update. Just as a very quick answer to see whether they have resolved my concerns I’ll look at each point (although you can probably see the answers from the screens shown below):
Nokia N8 Home Screens - Widgets, Shortcuts, RSS - Click to enlarge - here I've setup the first screen to show the interactive widgets, and favourite contacts (photos taken from twitter, phone, and facebook), the second screen I've filled with the search widget and shortcuts (making it look like an iphone or an android phone), and the third screen I've filled with RSS feeds - including an RSS feed from twitter.
RSS feeds on the home screen: Yes. By default you can get specific widgets such as the BBC News RSS Feed widget, and CNN News RSS Feed widget, these are built in to the phone as standard. If you subscribe to an RSS feed in the built in web browser, it will then appear as an option to put it on the home screens as an RSS widget.
Improved UI Design / Icons: Compared to Symbian S60 v3 or v5 (Touch), and the N97 / N97 Mini the interface is much nicer to use, graphically more pleasing, and much more responsive. The general look of the icons when in the main menu is still rather plain and not drastically different, but is more pleasing overall due to the blue buttons (they have tidied up the icons making them a little prettier, but they still have the same general look). There do seem to be some UI (User Interface) design quirks in that the exit button will move position when in landscape mode (such as the camera mode – this was not the case with the N97 Mini!).
Improved Web Browser: This is questionable. The browser is a slightly newer version (N8 is v18.104.22.168, N97 is v7.1.4), and deals with BBC iPlayer slightly differently, but is still very similar to the old browser. Overload it and instead of being able to view videos from iplayer or youtube, you’ll still get the “broken flash” icon. Apparently the first firmware update will include an improved browser. The new browser now supports Multi-touch and pinch zooming.
Improved sharing features: Photo send options are via message, mail or bluetooth. Where are the send to flickr, facebook, twitter, etc options? Update: – once you sign into Social (by Nokia) you then get the option to upload photos and videos to facebook and twitter straight after taking them! It’s a bit basic, but works well – yay!
Built in Twitter / Facebook client and home screen widget: Yes, twitter and facebook client / widget built in, called Nokia Social. This also integrates with the Contacts on the phone, and you can pull twitter / facebook friends profile picture into your contacts, and view their shared contact details on facebook.
Improved battery life or sleep mode: Too soon to say, but the screen saver looks low power (other screen saver options are: music player, which will display the track you’re playing even when the phones locks, slideshow, Big Clock, Animation or None). Wifi, and other internet connections *seem* to go to sleep when not in use, and the phone also copes well with having many apps running in the background, even overnight, without much battery life problems. With the N97 Mini, running programs overnight normally meant waking up to a flat battery, not so with the N8. The battery is the same 1200mah battery as used in the Nokia N97 Mini (BL-4D). So far the battery lasts longer than the N97 Mini, and in everyday use, the N8 battery lasts 15 hours (I will add more results later), although the battery life will be highly dependant on what features you use and how often you use them. Another new feature added to the phone, is that it now shows you how much the phone is charged in percentage, even when the phone is off.
PC software needs fixing – why are there separate apps for Nokia Maps loader, Nokia Ovi Suite, Nokia Software Updater, etc, why can’t these all be combined into one? This appears to be being resolved, with the majority of tools being put inside Nokia Ovi Suite, however there still appears to be development of Nokia Software Updater as a separate program. Nokia Ovi Suite is available on the phone to install, when you connect the phone in Mass Storage mode.
Nokia N8 – one of the customisable home screens nearly full of widgets – click to enlarge.
Have a screen that works outside even when battery is low: Too soon to say, however, the screen clarity and brightness looks like a significant improvement over the Nokia N97 Mini and the N8 features an AMOLED screen, although this wasn’t a good thing when the Nokia N86 8mp featured an AMOLED screen, as it was very difficult to see it in bright sunlight.
Lots of memory (RAM) for multi-tasking: Despite the N8 only having 256mb internally for the C: drive, compared to the Nokia N97 Mini’s 512mb, the N8 seems to be able to run WAY more apps simultaneously when compared to the N97 Mini – I have not yet seen any memory error messages despite running applications that cause problems on the N97 Mini. Running 11+ applications is not a problem, as Symbian^3 now has virtual memory support.
Photoshop for Symbian anyone? Already, since the release of the Nokia N8, Nokia have released a new photography app, Nokia Panoramic. There are other photo apps currently under development… see Nokia Make My App, in particular: Mobile Photoshop 🙂 and Auto HDR Photography.
High Quality Audio / MP3 Playback: The Nokia N8 is already at a disadvantage compared to the Nokia N97 and N97 Mini, as the N8 only has one speaker for playback. However, it improves over the N97 Mini by including an FM transmitter. For stereo sound you will need to plug in some earphones / headphones. The music player on the N8 is greatly improved over the player on previous Nokia phones, and provides smooth scrolling through album art.
Volume is very high – much higher than the N97 Mini, and clarity (particularly treble) is exceptional, without distortion at 100% volume. The N8 is very capable of driving large headphones, at potentially dangerous volume levels, and the volume can be changed with the side volume control even when the phone is locked (this was not possible with the N97 Mini, which is nice). Gapless playback of MP3s? Nope, it almost seems like it’s trying though, with a one or two second gap.
Flick scroll to browse the albums in your music collection
Ovi Music Unlimited service on selected markets
Nokia Ovi Player
Ovi Music store
Music codecs: .MP3, WMA, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+, AMR-NB, AMR-WB
Bit rate up tp 320 kbps
DRM support WM DRM, OMA DRM 2.0
Stereo FM radio (87.5-108 MHz/76-90 MHz)
Nokia N8 Camera – Carl Zeiss Tessar Lens, f2.8, 28mm equivalent (wide-angle), Auto focus. Xenon flash at the top. Speaker hole at the bottom.
The Nokia N8 Camera: One of the greatly anticipated (and hyped) features of the Nokia N8 is the 12 megapixel camera with Xenon flash. Nokia have put in a 12 megapixel sensor (1/1.83-inch) that is the same size as you find in your typical compact digital camera from Canon, Panasonic etc, and whilst nowhere near as good as the large sensor you would find in a Digital SLR, it is an improvement over the tiny sensors found in every other camera phone. As proof to how serious Nokia are taking the camera abilities of the N8, they posted 34 questions and answers about JUST the camera on the phone.
Golden autumn leaves, 12mp, 2.56mb, ISO105, f2.8, 1/155, Click to enlarge.
12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics
Face recognition software
Focal length: 5.9 mm, Wide-angle 28mm equivalent
F number/Aperture: F2.8
Still images file format: JPEG/EXIF
Zoom up to 2x (digital) for still images
Zoom up to 3x (digital) for video
Some photos above: click to enlarge, click again to view full size.
More on the Camera: The camera defaults to taking 9 megapixel 16:9 wide aspect ratio photos (4000 x 2248) – switching to 12 megapixel images gives the more usual 4:3 aspect ratio (4000 x 3000), and 12mp photos average between 3.2mb and 1mb, which means they are quite highly compressed. After taking over 50 photos, the ISO (when set to AUTO) has ranged from ISO100 to ISO229. Manual settings for ISO are available and can be set to Low (ISO100), Medium (ISO400), or High (ISO800).
12 megapixel with Carl Zeiss optics
HD quality 720p resolution
Shoot 16:9 videos in HD
Video capture in 720p 25 fps with codecs H.264, MPEG-4
Settings for scene, white balance, colour tone
3x digital zoom available
The phone has a new video player, that supports DIVX, and XVID playback, including mkv files.
Plugging the phone into Windows 7 and you get some useful information, as Symbian^3 now supports Windows 7 properly:
Charge, Photos, Memory (Here it’s showing 20+gb as I’ve put an 8gb Micro SD card in), Text messages, Missed calls etc,
Other improvements: There’s a new keyboard mode (not yet supported by most apps), that lets you view your program, and your keyboard at the same time, it also implements predictive text / words, which makes using the keyboard much quicker. Simply start typing the word, and suggestions will appear making it quicker to use than the old qwerty keyboard.
USB on the go: Plug in any USB device, such as a USB keyboard or mouse, and you can use them on the phone, why not use a full size PC / Mac USB keyboard for typing instead of the touch screen? Or use a bluetooth mouse as well and use the HDMI output to connect the phone up to a large screen and then it can be used as a desktop PC replacement. Alternatively you could connect up a digital camera and start uploading photos to the internet, the possibilities are pretty amazing. Supports USB pen drives, and I suspect USB memory card readers (although I haven’t tested this personally). Or you could connect up your previous Nokia, such as the N97 Mini in Mass Storage mode, and copy everything across without having to go through a PC.
Over 250 new features in Symbian^3: From the nokia blog, we can see that some of the main features added to Symbian are: Better graphics, Multi-touch, improved multimedia (new video player, HDMI support, Dolby*, new music player), better multitasking which includes better memory management to allow more apps to run, and an “Alt-Tab” (Windows) style task switcher, nicer networking, and Qt for developers.
Some other cool new features are: (if you’re technically minded) 64-bit file server – the phone supports files larger than 2gb, and Symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) support for dual core processors such as the ARM A9. Probably the most important for Nokia users that are bored of seeing the “Out of Memory” message on the N97 or N97 Mini (etc), Symbian^3 now features Writable Data Paging (WDP) – much like the Windows Page File, once the built in physical RAM has run out, it will simply page it to the other “drives” in the phone. (see Nokia Library “What’s new in Symbian^3” for more info)
New Ovi Store: One of the listed selling points of the phone is “access to 1000s of apps in the new Ovi store” (paraphrased by me), although strangely the Ovi store isn’t actually installed on the phone, all the shortcuts are there, but when go to open it, you then need to install it. I suppose it means you are going to get the latest version of the Ovi store even if the phones been sitting on the shelf for a few months, but it seems a little strange. When the Ovi store is installed, it is a noticeable improvement over the old store, not that there was anything particularly bad about the old store, it’s just that the Ovi store on the N8 looks nicer and feels nicer to use.
Build quality: The front glass is made out of “Gorrilla Glass” – a product that is deemed by the internetas unbreakable (Video). The phone body is made out of Aluminium, and feels extremely solid and well built, and the top and bottom of the phone are plastic. The fit and finish of the phone feels and looks like a high quality product, with no flex in the plastic or screen or any other parts of the phone, and the few buttons that the phone has feel good, with an especially nice shutter release button and volume controls. The sliding lock button feels solid even though I think it’s made out of plastic. (You can also unlock the phone by pressing the menu key and pressing the screen, in case you’re not a fan of using the side unlock key)
More intuitive: The Nokia N8 / and Symbian^3 is improved over Symbian S60 v5 (used in the N97/Mini etc) in lots of little ways, making it a much more intuitive phone to use, for example: To change the clock on the home screen from analogue to digital, you press the clock, this takes you into the time / date / alarm screen, and then you simply press the clock again to switch between analogue and digital. On the N97 Mini, this wasn’t possible, instead you had to delve right into the phone settings to choose between analogue and digital clocks.
Better connectivity and networking: Apart from the phone finding wireless networks quicker than the N97 Mini, it also seems to find more networks, and seems to have better range from the router. There’s also a new “Settings” menu in the connectivity menu, it allows you to set options for switching to WLAN, Data use in home network (Auto, Always ask, WLAN only), Data use when roaming (Auto, Always ask, WLAN only) – these settings could be very useful if you have a horrible internet data tariff but excellent wireless access, and it’s also where the “Destinations” menu has moved. There also appears to be a new power saving setting in the WLAN settings. In the USB connection menu there’s a new option to “Connect PC to net” enabling you to use the phone as modem (this was possible through OVI Suite with previous phones but not built into the phones menus). Under the Data Transfer menu, there’s a new “Ovi Sync” in addition to “Sync”. Remote drives is now an option.
Better internet: Changes made in the built in browser are subtle but quite clever, increasing the ease of use of the browser, for example, the refresh button is now directly next to the options button, making it easier to refresh a page.
Even more features: (too many to go into detail, so I thought I’d start listing additional features)
– Data transfer / Phone switch tool (built into the N8 in Settings, Data Transfer, Phone Switch) – lets you transfer data from or to another Nokia onto the N8 via bluetooth, and installs the sync tool to the other phone from the N8, then lets you choose what you want to transfer over. It’s very clever, and easy to use.
– Nokia Ovi Suite comes on the phone as an installable program when connected in Mass Storage mode (copying the useful feature from the Sony Satio?)
– Pop-Up Connection Notifications – tell you when you’ve connected to the network
– Long press / hold items to bring up a pop-up menu
– The battery icon is now click-able (from the home screen), so you can view the battery status
– New Power Saving option in the Phone Management screen (Settings, Phone, Phone Management)#
– Better contact management – you can merge contacts so that you don’t have duplicates in your phone
Wish list? If I could improve or add anything to the phone, what would I like to see? Previously with the Nokia N Series, Nokia included a lens / screen cloth to keep the lens and screen clean – this should be included with such a camera centric model. The lens is very easy to get finger prints on, and it’s important to keep the lens clean in order to get the best photo quality possible. An improved web browser would be very nice – the included is a little slow, and a little buggy.
* Apparently I’m meant to remind people that Dolby is a registered trademark of Dolby Laboratories. Like you’d forget or something.
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