GN Focus | Smart Devices

Tech you’ve been waiting for

Gadgets that offer improved multimedia options, won’t hurt your wallet and maybe survive a dunk in the pool

  • GN Focus Report
  • Published: 07:00 November 22, 2012
  • GN Focus

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • The Nexus 10 is ideal for watching movies and it has the potential to be a better gaming tablet than the iPad

Google gives notice

With impressive specs, the Nexus 10 seems like a special tablet. But when put through a real-world test, Google’s latest tablet performed well for the price but not enough to brag about to friends. This flagship, high-end Android tablet of the season has a starting price of $399 (about Dh1,465) for a 16 GB model.

The Nexus 10’s display was tested and compared with the third-generation iPad, and each time the Apple tablet won. But that’s not to say the Nexus 10 isn’t better at some things. Its larger screen makes it ideal for watching movies, and the Nexus 10 has the potential to be a better gaming tablet than the iPad. It is slimmer and lighter, and its back cover also has a grip that’s good for holding the device when gaming.

The Nexus 10 has all the standard components — an HDMI out port and a micro USB port for charging, near field communication (NFC) technology useful for instantly paying for purchases and transferring files from another NFC device, and a possible nine hours of battery life during continuous use.

The Nexus 10 also has 1.9-megapixel front and five-megapixel rear cameras. The front camera is more than suitable for a fun Google+ Hangout video chat, and the rear camera will take respectable pictures. However, Google doesn’t claim the cameras record in HD, and the quality of videos recorded was fine but nothing special.

One thing unique to the Nexus 10’s cameras is the new Photo Sphere feature, which arrives on Android devices with the 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system (OS) update. Photo Sphere enables you to shoot 360-degree panoramic images. If you do take the time to shoot an entire location that surrounds you, the results are stunning. You can upload them to Google+, where friends can toggle through the images. The files save as JPEGs, so you can also upload them to Facebook or Twitter, but there they’ll simply look like very wide panoramas.

The Nexus 10 has front-facing dual speakers and the volume of sound produced is great for a tablet. The quality, though, is a bit on the tinny side. But if you just want to play a YouTube video or TV show for yourself and a friend, the speakers should do well.

The Nexus 10 is a very good deal at 16GB for $399 or 32GB for $499, but if you can afford an additional $100, the iPad may be the way to go.

Specs

Size: 263.9X177.6X8.9mm, 603gm

Processor: Dual-core, 1700 MHz, ARM Cortex-A15

Display: 10.05 inches, 2560X1600 pixels

Camera: Rear 5MP and front 1.9MP cameras

OS: Android 4.2

Memory: built-in 16GB, 2048MB RAM

— Los Angeles Times

 

Worth the wait

It was half past eleven on a Thursday night and I was staring at the shiny new black iPhone 5 held delicately in my hand. The words "Insert SIM to activate" stared right back at me. I had already spent a day agonising over the fact that I had paid £699 (about Dh4,200) for a 64GB iPhone on a whim, and couldn’t wait any longer. I found a sharp pair of scissors and proceeded to chop up my SIM (this is not an endorsement, especially since nano SIMs are now readily available with du and Etisalat). A word of prayer was sent heavenwards with every snip, and with great anticipation I inserted the cannibalised SIM into my new phone. I wouldn’t have known what to do had this not worked. But it did.

I was making the switch from a three-year-old iPhone 3GS and the difference was almost immediately clear. The new iPhone is faster, more responsive and its taller screen is a stroke of genius. The new design just makes it easier to hold and navigate through apps.

I had already updated the old phone with iOS 6, so it wasn’t the software that took my breath away but the immediacy with which everything opened. And since I had already used the new Maps app and lost my way the week before, I wasn’t too bothered by it in the new phone. You lose some, you gain some.

I did use the Maps app in London over the Eid weekend and it worked perfectly well. So that’s one more feature we hope will improve, along with a better-stocked iTunes Store, as Apple turns its gaze lower down the geographical hierarchy.

What truly amazes me is the lack of preparedness for the new iPhone. There are still few standard accessories available for what is widely considered the most leaked Apple device and a worst-kept secret. The fiasco that is the nano SIM, of course, tops the list. But even standard stuff such as screen guards and cases were hard to find on Apple store websites until a few days ago. Of course, there’s a thriving grey market for all your Made-in-China options, which I turned to eventually.

Ultimately, the most important factor — decisive in my case — is the whole ecosystem that comes with such devices today. My new iPhone is an exact replica of my old phone. In fact, when it had finished syncing, the same three webpages were open in the new phone’s Safari web browser app. My numbers, photographs, settings and apps were all the same. To be completely honest, I was bored with my new toy in a day’s time.

The iPhone 5 starts from Dh4,149 for 16GB and is available at all leading electronics retailers.

Specs

Size:123.8X58.6X7.6mm, 112gm

Display: Retina display 4-inch (diagonal) widescreen multi-touch display

Processor: Dual-core 1.2GHz

OS: iOS 6

Camera: 8MP iSight camera, Video recording, HD (1080p), autofocus

Memory: 16/32/64GB storage, 1GB RAM

— Azar Zaidi/Staff Writer

 

Silk and steel

So what do you do when Sony is kind enough to drop off a waterproof smartphone for review? You set out to prove that the Sony R&D department got something wrong.

After accidentally splashing water on the Xperia go, I accidentally left it in a glass of water for a minute while it played music. Garbled music. However, when it surfaced it worked fine. Since this was not the Xperia active, I decided against flinging it around the room.

Similar to its counterparts, the little device comes equipped with cutting-edge visual technology. A Mobile Bravia engine powers its 3.5-inch display and, similar to the Xperia active, the Xperia go also has a capacitive touch screen with wet finger tracking and a scratch-resistant, anti-reflection screen.

Sony also offers 50GB of free cloud storage along with the smartphone as long as its activated before the end of the year. All users have to do is download the Box for Android application and set up a free account.

What is admirable is that Sony managed to pack all this safety and features into a sleek design. If you do prefer listening to music underwater, this is not the smartphone for you. Otherwise, it does seem that Sony got the Xperia go just right. It is available at all leading electronic retailers for Dh1,199.

Specs

Size: 111X60.3X9.8mm, 110gm

Display: 3.5-inch TFT touch screen, 16 million colours, 480X320 pixels

Processor: 1GHz NovaThor U8500 dual-core Cortex A9

OS: Google Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Camera: 5MP autofocus camera, 16x digital zoom, LED flash

Memory: 8GB (up to 4GB user-accessible memory) internal memory, 512MB RAM, micro SD cards up to 32GB

— Gareth Kurt Warren/Features Writer

 

The budget Android

On paper, this is the best budget Android device available in the market right now. The 4300 Duo runs on a Cortex A9 1GHz CPU and has 512MB of RAM, with an integrated powerful graphics processing unit and the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system.

The phone has a 4.3-inch multi-touch in-plane switching display that allows extra wide viewing angles and a five-megapixel rear camera. And what’s more, it supports two SIM cards.

Despite being slightly thicker than most smartphones, the 4300 Duo is extremely light and does feel like a toy compared to the others. But don’t judge a phone by its construction material — it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and what’s inside
this Android wonder really does count.

The device has all the features of a powerful smartphone for the price of an average phone. At Dh699, the 4300 Duo is a bargain buy that is worth every fil.

Specs

Size: 128X68X10.5mm, 190gm

Display: 4.3 inches, 800X480 pixels

Processor: MT6575 Cortex A9, GPU: PowerVR SGX Series5

OS: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

Camera: 0.3MP front and 5MP rear cameras

Memory: 512MB RAM, 4GB ROM, micro SD cards up to 32GB

— G.K.W.

 

One for Windows Phone 8

If only Nokia’s Lumia 920 was available to buy when it was unveiled in September. It might have made headway against the competition. Its 4.5-inch touch display is unmatched for responsiveness and speed, while its stabilisation technology, paired with an 8.7-megapixel digital sensor, is the best available for taking clear, precise pictures.

But it has only just launched on Canadian mobile operator Rogers and will not be available in Europe or the US until later this month, where prices are yet to be announced. But if you don’t mind waiting, the Lumia 920 makes the best use so far of Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 8 OS.

Specs

Size: 130.3X70.8X10.7mm, 185gm

Display: 4.5 inches

Processor: Dual-core 1.5Ghz Snapdragon S4

Camera: 8.7MP Nokia PureView Camera

Memory: 1,000MB internal memory, 32GB mass memory and 7GB in SkyDrive

— Financial Times

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