OS – Android 4.1 with Sony’s custom skin
The Xperia L will ship with Jelly Bean 4.1 out of the box along with Sony’s custom skin. The handset should also be easily upgradable to 4.2 down the road. The UI should be very similar to the one’s we’ve seen on the Xperia Z and ZL.
Cellular connectivity – 3G but no LTE
There really aren’t any smartphones available today in this price bracket or lower that don’t support 3G. The lack of LTE isn’t much of a downer as many of the high-end phones launched in India lack LTE support too.
Display – 4.3-inch TFT LCD
Here’s where Sony would have to really fight for its right to be taken seriously. With devices like the Micromax Canavs HD and the XOLO X1000, both of which have HD displays, the Xperia L falls a bit short in this respect. There’s nothing wrong with the size of the screen as larger screen devices are more cumbersome to handle, but the lack of BRAVIA Mobile Engine could be an issue.
Form factor – Definitely an upgrade from the Neo L
Taking its cue from the Arc, the concave back of the handset should make it easy to grip. While Sony seemed to think that a completely flat rear surface would be ideal (see Xperia Z), the curved nature also adds a little finesse to the overall design of the handset. The protruding power/sleep button is all chromed out and adds a touch of class and ease of accessibility to the form of this slim handset. The subtle light indicator at the bottom of the device is also a good idea. Overall, we feel it’s a big step up from the down right plasticky Neo L.
Connectivity – Fully loaded
The Xperia L features dual-band Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Hotspot creation, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, NFC and USB 2.0. GLONASS for navigation will be sorely missed though.
SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 400
Loaded up with a dual-core processor clocked at 1GHz, 1GB of RAM and an Adreno 305 GPU, speed shouldn’t be a problem. However, once again, lower priced options with quad-core processors like the Canvas HD are available. We’ll have more to say once we’ve run benchmarks on the Xperia L and compared them to those of the lower priced devices.
Internal storage – 8GB, further expandable
You’re provisioned with 8GB of internal storage on the Xperia L, out of which about 5.8GB is available for users. This can be further enhanced with the use of microSD cards going up to 32GB in capacity. That’s quite a bit for all intents and purposes.
Cameras – 8MP shooter with HDR video
The Xperia L’s main selling point is the camera. The 8MP shooter supports HDR for stills as well as video, just like the Xperia Z. While this is all fine and dandy, we don’t understand why Sony has limited the video recording to just 720p. Most phones in this price range can easily manage 1080p video, so why cap it knowing the SoC can handle it? This is one area which could be a make or break for most buyers. The front-facing camera is also a disappointment. The Xperia L still uses a VGA sensor when the rest of the world has moved onto 1.3MP and above.
Sensors – Only proximity, compass and accelerometer
The Xperia L is missing a Gyroscope, but everything else is present.
Battery – 1750 mAh Li-ion battery
The battery has been bumped up to 1750 mAh capacity, which, given the resolution, should easily last you for an entire day.
The bottom line
Sony’s new Xperia L is definitely not as exciting as its higher-end cousin, the SP. If phones like the Canvas HD, Galaxy Grand and the XOLO X1000 didn’t exist, then yes, the L would have been a very good option. But sadly, that’s not the case. The L certainly has better aesthetics as compared to its predecessor, but it’s far from perfect. At its expected launch price, there are not one but several gaping holes in the specifications list that stick out like a sore thumb. The screen is the most disappointing part. Not only is it not HD, it also lacks the BRAVIA treatment. The lack of full HD recording will also be missed and we could have done without NFC and taken GLONASS instead. We just hope that Sony soon drops the price of the L like it did with the SP, else it’s going to be a tough sell.
But is there really any space for this sort of device, lacking the glory of the top spot and falling well into the long shadow of the excellent Sony Xperia Z?
The Sony Xperia SP mashes together the S and P names and in theory brings together elements of those forebears, mainly with the specs of the S and the aluminium design of the P, together with the translucent strip design common to the S, P and U Xperia devices of early-2012.
However, the design has taken something of a departure, because although this phone carries an aluminium frame, the back is a conventional clip-on plastic shell which can be removed to give you access to the important SD and SIM card slots, but that’s all.
In reality, the contrast is rather nice. You have the solidity of that metal frame, cool to the touch around the sides, then the warmth and tactile feel of the plastic back, providing some grip against your fingers to make it a little more secure in the hand. The angles of the sides provide plenty of grip too, the high points fitting into the joints of your digits to ensure that this handset isn’t going to go flying from your grasp. Measuring 130.6 x 67.1 x 9.98mm, it isn’t too large, but the 155g weight is pushing up towards the top end: it weighs more than the larger Xperia Z or HTC One, for example.
But the biggest design feature isn’t the choice of materials, it’s the inclusion of the illuminated bar across the bottom of the phone. This replaces the notification LED, giving you coloured flashes when you have a message, as well as changing colours when viewing photos – rather like Philips’ Ambilight TV technology.
It brings a dash of colour to what you’re doing and it is a bit of fun, although we found that flashing can be a bit too much, especially at night, when an email alert may well end up illuminating your whole bedroom. We’re sure it will appeal to some; for us, a simple LED notification will do, but that’s personal choice.
The physical controls are placed around the device in typical Sony fashion, with a central power/standby button on the right-hand side, along with the volume rocker and a dedicated camera button, which can be used to launch the camera directly from locked.
All on display
Encased within the somewhat quirky design are a set of display specs that are altogether more solid. There’s a 4.6-inch display on the front, with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, giving you an impressive 319ppi pixel density. The result is a nice sharp display and plenty of space for Android to show off its talents.
Of course the resolution has now been bettered by those Full HD displays, with the likes of the HTC One being fractionally larger, but plenty sharper. Considering that the price is a step down though, the Xperia SP serves you well, although you will need to accept that the viewing angles aren’t brilliant.
The display itself is good, but not the best out there. The auto-brightness seems to be a little reluctant to react, often needing a prompt to get a perfect level. You’ve also got Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine 2 included, that will boost colours to give you more-vibrant images. It works, but can result in the photos you take looking a little better on your device than they do when you share them with friends.
But our biggest gripe about the device is that we’ve spent our time constantly trying to clean smears off it. The Xperia SP is topped with Corning Gorilla Glass, but it seems to spend more time being smeary than any other device we’ve used recently.
Hardware and performance
Driving the Xperia SP is a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, clocked at 1.7GHz, and backed by 1GB of RAM. It isn’t the latest generation of processor, nor is it the most powerful and that’s somewhat reflected in the experience. Although the SP is pretty fast, it lacks the snap that the latest devices give you, but given the device’s positioning, we’re happy with that, and it will set about your Android tasks with relative ease.
There’s 8GB of internal storage, of which 5.37GB is available, although you can add up to 32GB via microSD card.
In terms of physical connections, the Xperia SP has a 3.5mm headphone socket on the top and a Micro-USB supporting MHL on the left-hand side. On the wireless front, this is available as a 4G LTE handset in some markets, and you have all the wireless wizardry you’d expect, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, DLNA support and so on.
The whole thing is powered by a 2300mAh battery, which is pretty impressive considering the level of this device. We’re pleased to see that Sony Mobile didn’t opt for a lesser capacity, as the SP really needs that to power this hardware.
Typically, the phone will make it through the day and we found that we’d get through 12 hours fairly easily. On light days we had no problems at all. It used to be the case that “mid-range” devices did well when it came to battery performance because of the lower specs. In the case of the Xperia SP, that’s not really the case.
However, there are also a lot of smart options for managing the battery. As we found with the Sony Xperia Z, you can customise how the phone behaves with a stamina mode. This will let you say exactly what elements of the device are shut off when the level dips below a certain figure – 30 per cent by default.
You can turn off background data, but cleverly you can nominate those apps you want to stay connected. That means, for example, you could keep WhatsApp active for your social connections, but let all your Google syncing go quiet when the battery gets low. You also get hardware controls, so you can easily manage the endurance of your device when the battery level gets critical.
The result is that the Sony Xperia SP is a good performer on the battery. Sure, push it hard and the battery will drain itself in 6 hours or so, but with sensible use, the SP will see you through the day easily enough and Sony’s smart battery management options really work well, with all the flexibility we want.
The call quality of the Sony Xperia SP is good and there were no complaints from callers when using the phone. We also found the reception to be pretty good, with a good strong signal in places that some phone struggle with on our test network.
The external speaker is located on the back of the phone and isn’t great. It sounds rather tinny and there are certainly phones that give a much better account of themselves when being used for music and movies with the external speaker.
The Sony Xperiance
Sony’s customisation of Android is now at a level where it doesn’t inhibit much of what you love about Android. Some of the distractions of Xperia devices of old have been moved aside, so there’s no longer any Timescape or Mediascape, but there’s still a fair quantity of bundled apps and services.
But thanks to support for folders in the apps tray on this Android 4.1.2 (at launch) device, you can easily move any number of apps you don’t want into a folder. While we’d much prefer to be able to remove them, at least you can hide them away easily.
There are some superficial changes to the calendar that we don’t think really add anything over the stock Android offering and although Sony has added a great deal to its keyboard, we still don’t think it stands up against Swiftkey or the new Swype, which we used predominantly on this phone.
But Sony is sticking to some core Android elements. Chrome is the browser you’re supplied with out of the box, rather than having some other customised browser getting in the way. We like that approach, just as we like that Sony follows the Nexus line and eschews capacitive buttons in favour of on-screen icons for device control, which can be dimmed when you dive into things like movies, making for a nice, clean experience.
Perhaps the integration of your social networks – Facebook and Twitter – could be a little better, as it’s all too easy to lose an update you share via Twitter for Xperia for example, but as we found with the Xperia Z, Sony’s user interface has reached a point where it feels right.
We did find a few quirks however. The camera seems to slow things down a lot. Launching the camera takes longer than expected, moving into previews feels slow, and returning to the camera once you’ve viewed a shot takes even longer. It’s almost as though there’s too much going on, which may well be the case.
We also found the returning to the home screen sometimes left us with lots of blank spaces where there should be app shortcuts or folders, as though the SP was lagging behind what you were asking it to do. With the power on offer, this shouldn’t be the case, so perhaps points to something in the software that needs fixing. Not a deal breaker, by any means, but it detracts slightly from the package.
Photos, movies and music
Sony being Sony, it wants to own the entertainment space. Where you really feel the impact of its tinkering is in the entertainment apps. That means that visually, as well as operationally, things like the Gallery, here called Album, change dramatically. One of the things we like about Sony’s Album is the zooming to change the view of photos, a feature Sony has offered over a couple of generations of Android smartphones. It’s great to be able to zoom in and out of the whole album view and watch everything rearrange itself.
You also get in-built editing options, so you can add common effects like Lomo, change the saturation of a picture, crop, rotate, change highlights, shadows and a whole host of other things, so if the picture you snap isn’t looking its best, you can easily make some changes.
The Movies app is something of an oddball as it doesn’t give you all your movies, like those from the camera, which are accessed through the normal album. Movies will, however, pull together those videos you sideload, as well as those you might buy through Sony’s Movies Unlimited, but not those you download from Google Play.
Movie playback looks good head-on, although the display’s viewing angles will see the colour drop out if you lie it down flat. There’s good native support for a range of different file formats, however, as well as integrated support to share content or access content on a media server.
We’re still not totally sold on the music app. Even though it sports the Walkman branding, the home page for the music app feels a little antiquated with the top section given over to the depiction of a record player. When it comes to finding and playing your music we don’t have a problem with it, and the sound quality is pretty good through a decent set of headphones, with various enhancements available to tweak the sound to your liking.
Sony packs a huge amount of functionality into the camera of an Xperia handset. The Xperia SP has an 8-megapixel camera on the back and a 0.3-megapixel camera on the front. The rear is supported by an LED flash and as we’ve mentioned, there’s a dedicated camera button.
This button will let you launch the camera to get into snapping straight away. There are various options for its function, but we suspect that to launch the camera will be the most popular. It launches in a fast capture mode, basically in fully automatic, and seems blighted by inaccurate focusing. The majority of pictures we took via this method didn’t come out well, so its use is limited.
We also don’t like the “superior auto” mode. It limits your options and doesn’t seem to give you the superior return you might expect given the name, so it’s best to head into the normal shooting mode and tweak things to your liking to get the best results.
But the Sony Xperia SP suffers with noise, both in low light conditions and in good conditions, with blue skies turning speckled on a fine day, even with a reported ISO of 50. These shots are fine for sharing where the viewing size will probably hide those imperfections, but it’s not the best performer out there.
The slightly misleading thing about the Xperia SP, as with the Xperia Z, is that the Mobile Bravia 2 option often makes these pictures look better on screen than they actually are. That’s fine for showing to your friends on the phone, but fire them to your TV and they lack some of the punch you might be expecting.
The front-facing camera isn’t great either. Its low resolution shows, and although it’s not bad at giving nice colourful shots, they’re mostly mushy and lack detail.
Full HD video capture is offered and the results from video are pretty good, with continuous autofocus.
The Sony Xperia SP is a good mid-range phone. There’s power and flexibility on board and there’s the performance to back it up, aside from a few minor quirks.
The design of the handset is good too with the metal frame giving the SP a nice solid feel. We’re not sold on the flashing bar however, it just seems a little too much at times, especially when you’re lying awake at night, watching it illuminate your bedroom.
The camera performance isn’t great. Although there’s a lot on offer, it just doesn’t seem to all come together and give you the good shots you’d sometimes expect, with focusing being the thing that frustrated us the most.
However, the Sony Xperia SP is reasonably priced and for that you get a good display and a device that will showcase the fun of Android nicely, with a battery that will get you through the day.
The display on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is undoubtedly one of the smartphone’s highlights. The handset features a 5in 1080×1920 Super AMOLED screen with a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch (ppi), which translates to excellent vibrancy, good colour balance and decent viewing angles, although the display did often struggle in bright sunlight. We also found the display wasn’t quite as bright as those of some competing devices such as the HTC One.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 breezes through the performance category too, featuring a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.9GHz processor. In addition to performing well in benchmarking tests, the Galaxy S4 was a pleasure to use. We noticed no lag when opening apps, the phone handled multitasking well and, overall, it proved to be one of the fastest smartphones we’ve ever used.
The iPhone 5’s dual-core 1.2GHz processor might sound measly in comparison, but six months after the handset’s release we still haven’t encountered any issues with the its performance. That’s probably because all iOS apps are optimised to work on the iPhone, whereas Android applications are designed to work on hundreds of different smartphones.
Samsung’s choice of build material wasn’t one of them. If you were a critic of the GS3’s plastic construction, you’ll be disappointed with its successor — the company’s continuing its long-standing tradition of keeping metal out of the assembly lines, building the frame, back cover and faux-chrome edges with polycarbonate. It’s similar — though lower-grade and not machined — to the type of plastic you’d enjoy on flagships like the Nokia Lumia 920 or even the HTC One X+, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary for Samsung. The biggest benefit in using this type of material is that it offers a little more give when you drop the phone. It’s still plenty sturdy, and it feels like it’s just as durable as the GS3 or Galaxy Note II. This may be ideal for a large number of potential buyers, but we still prefer the HTC One’s premium build quality and visual appeal, thanks to its use of high-grade aluminum through its entire unibody chassis.
The GS4 uses polycarbonate and is pretty sturdy, but the HTC One still has a more premium build quality and visual appeal.
Although it technically has a larger display than its 4.8-inch predecessor, the 5-inch GS4 is actually narrower (69.8mm wide, versus 70.6mm on the GS3) because it only adds vertical screen space and has skinnier bezels on each side. The GS4 loses most of the well-polished curves prominently featured in the past-gen flagship, as it’s designed with broader corners and a filled-out back, both of which are signs that Samsung has veered away from its “inspired by nature” mantra. Fortunately, this means we finally get to say goodbye to the pebble look and feel: the edges are straighter from top to bottom, giving our fingers more surface to grasp onto, and the back cover fits flat on the faux-chrome edge instead of curving around it like waves of the ocean. The entire surface is still slick and glossy, but even so, it’s still easier to wrap your hands around this device. Measuring 7.9mm (0.31 inch) thick, the Galaxy S 4 is 0.7mm (0.027 inch) thinner than its older sibling. It’s also a mere three grams (0.11 ounce) lighter. All that said, the difference between the two devices isn’t noticeable unless you’re closely inspecting the pair side by side.
Flip the phone over and you’re presented with a slightly raised camera module on the top with an LED flash just below, and a pair of slits over the mono speaker sitting near the bottom; the plastic between them is raised to prevent sound from being muffled when the phone is lying face-up. The obligatory logos are here as well: “Galaxy S 4,” located just above the speakers in traditional fashion, and the carrier logo (T-Mobile in this case) underneath the flash.
Going around the faux-chrome edges, you’ll find the volume rocker on the left, power button on the right, micro-USB / MHL 2.0 connection port on the bottom and the 3.5mm headphone jack, mic and infrared transceiver on the top. It’s refreshing to see infrared resurging in popularity, as we’re now seeing it in several flagship devices, though it’s used in a completely different way now than in the days of the Palm Treo and other IrDA-clad devices. Which is to say, the primary reason for the tech used to be focused on data transfers and “beaming,” and now it’s simply offered as a universal remote.
|Samsung Galaxy S 4|
|Dimensions||136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm (5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches)|
|Weight||4.59 oz. (130g)|
|Screen size||5.0 inches|
|Screen resolution||1,920 x 1,080 (441 ppi)|
|Screen type||Full HD Super AMOLED|
|Battery||2,600mAh Li-Polymer (removable)|
|Internal storage||16 or 32GB|
|External storage||MicroSDXC (up to 64GB)|
|Rear camera||13MP, BIS|
|Front-facing cam||2.0MP, BIS|
|Video capture||1080p / 30 fps (rear); 1080p (front)|
|Radios||Varies by region and operator|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 600|
|Entertainment||MHL 2.0, IR transceiver, DLNA, WiFi Direct|
|Operating system||Android 4.2.2 (TouchWiz)|
In short, the two are incredibly close, and you’d probably be happy with either one. But let’s dive into more detail about how they differ. AMOLED panels are generally more saturated in color than their LCD counterparts, but we were a little surprised to see the level of color toned down from the GS3; so much, in fact, that most images we viewed matched the natural color reproduction we enjoyed on the One. The blacks were still darker on the GS4, while the whites were brighter — and viewing angles better — on the One. Blues looked the best on the GS4, but the reds were a little too saturated for our taste. Yes, the world of 1080p smartphone displays is a nitpicker’s heaven, but unless you have an aversion to AMOLED panels, you’ll be amazingly happy with the crisp text and vibrant visuals. Lastly, to make sure we avoid any confusion, it is indeed a clear improvement over the 720p display on the GS3.
The new Synaptics ClearPad in the GS4 is capable of detecting your finger from 2cm away.
The GS4 runs Android 4.2, which is still rarely used in brand new devices.
As is the mantra of every Galaxy device, the GS4 uses Samsung’s TouchWiz skin atop nearly every possible aspect of the firmware. And whether you love the proprietary UI or not, its overall layout is nearly identical to what you’ll find on the GS3. You can still use up to seven home pages, and you’re treated to the same app menu, options and gestures. Even the standard notification bar looks exactly alike. Samsung is a fan of consistency, and many TouchWiz enthusiasts will appreciate the minimal learning curve required to make the jump to this device. Simply put: if you enjoyed the firmware on the GS3, your experience with its successor will be just as rapturous, if not more so. If you’re hoping to run custom ROMs in place of TouchWiz, you may have to wait for a little while since Samsung has confirmed to us that the bootloader is locked.
The feature that has arguably received the most attention is Smart Scroll. The front-facing camera detects your eyes and then tracks the movement of your head, in much the same manner as most other Smart features. If you tilt your head down, the page you’re looking at scrolls down; tilt your head up and the screen scrolls up as well. It’s a great idea, in theory, but we ultimately found it frustrating for several reasons. First, it only works in specific apps. For instance, the stock internet browser supports it, but Chrome does not, and we couldn’t scroll through Samsung’s menus using this method, either. (There’s no word on whether this feature will be incorporated into an SDK eventually for third-party developers, but we’re optimistic about it.)
Smart Scroll is a fun idea in theory, but our neck got tired more quickly than our fingers when doing the same task.
OTHER NOTABLE FEATURES
Safety Assistance may be one of the cleverest features on the GS4, but the US models won’t offer it.
LOOK MA, NO S PEN!
Samsung’s been adding fancy gesture- and motion-based tricks to its flagships for several years now, thanks to the large array of sensors made available to Android devices. In the case of the GS4, the company has incorporated a set of features called Air Gesture. We first saw a glimpse of this in the Note 2 with Quick Glance, but it’s been greatly expanded this time around. Air Jump lets you do page-up and page-down scrolls by waving your hand up or down, while Air Browse will switch you from one browser tab to another when you wave your hand from side to side. And Air Move helps you relocate icons (namely, apps and calendar appointments) to other pages by holding them with one finger and waving your free hand left or right.
Finally, one last feature that’s gained popularity in the Note series is Multi Window, and it’s fully functional in the GS4. Press and hold the back button and a tab will magically appear. Tap on it to behold a sidebar of apps that support the feature. Since third-party developers have been doing an amazing job of hopping on board, plenty of applications are already compatible.
Additionally, the GS4 rear camera lens uses an f/2.2 aperture, 4.235mm focal length and a 69-degree angular field of view; the 1/3.06-inch sensor offers a pixel size of 1.12 microns (compared to 2.0 microns on the One). Its 13MP resolution is set at an aspect ratio of 4:3, so 16:9 fans will need to go down to 9.6 megapixels for a widescreen option. On paper, the specs indicate a pretty solid setup for a flagship, but performance doesn’t always match up with the specs — especially now that we’ve used the One extensively and found it to be a bar-raiser in terms of its low-light results.
Samsung took one step forward and one step back with its camera UI. Mainstream users won’t have any problem adjusting to the interface, a lot of which has been carried over from the Galaxy Camera: it consists of dual shutter buttons (one for stills and one for video, just like HTC’s Sense UI), gallery access above and a button underneath that lets you choose from nine different modes, most of which we’ll discuss in more detail shortly. Where it regresses from previous phones, however, is in the confusing settings menu, which is found on the top-left corner of the viewfinder. Press it once and you have a small list of shortcut options, as well as another gear icon indicating you have more settings to pick from (you can also access this menu a little more easily by hitting the menu key from the main viewfinder).
Some camera modes also include a downward arrow near the bottom of the viewfinder that features even more options to choose from. Since these menus are different with each corresponding mode — and absent in some modes altogether — it may take some getting used to. Speaking of which, let’s dive into the new features Samsung has cooked up for the GS4.
NEW CAMERA MODES
The GS4 also offers what we like to call “photobomb mode,” officially known as Eraser. It takes a series of images for five seconds and gives you the ability to remove any objects that are moving in the background. Sound familiar? That’s because it does exactly the same thing as Scalado Remove — heck, we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Samsung partnered with the company to make it happen. Regardless, this is a useful feature, but there are a couple drawbacks. First, you have to actually be in this mode for it to work; if you’re in the standard camera mode and a photobomber decides to ruin your kids’ only picture with Goofy at the happiest place on Earth, you’re out of luck. Second, it occasionally acts finicky, which means that it doesn’t always pick up every moving object.
Sound and Shot is a spiffy feature to show off to your friends, but we found no use for it otherwise. In this mode, the phone takes the picture and then records nine seconds of audio immediately following it; then, that recording will play back any time you view the image. The point of this is to capture memories of the event as it unfolds, but we had a difficult time figuring out many good use case scenarios for it.
Most of Samsung’s new camera modes are fun to use a few times, but offer little practical use.
On top of this list of unique camera modes, the GS4 also offers HDR, Beauty Face, Best Face, Best Photo, Panorama, Sports and Night modes. Most of the scene modes we were accustomed to seeing in older Samsung phones are no longer present — the autumn colors, backlight, candlelight, sunset and several others are now incorporated into the camera’s auto mode, which means it’s smart enough to select the best scene based on each individual situation.
The camera is very impressive in daylight use, but the One still wins in low light performance.
One of the most important aspects of having a 13MP camera is the amount of detail it’s capable of capturing, and the GS4 appears to grab just a little more of it than the same images taken by the One or the GS3. But the extra pixels do their best work when the shots are zoomed in; not only can the GS4 zoom in further than the One and GS3, it also allows for more cropping and presents more definition than the other aforementioned devices. Color reproduction is slightly oversaturated; dynamic range is noticeably better; and the images aren’t as oversharpened as the One. When it comes to daylight imagery, Samsung’s latest and greatest is pretty impressive, and bests the HTC One, which has been our favorite shooter on an Android device so far and still offers superb colors and natural light. For examples of low-light performance, we’ve included galleries of samples from both phones below so you can compare.
PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY LIFE
As a result, our conclusions on the phone’s performance are based on tests with theSnapdragon 600, which is paired with an Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB RAM. This is the same chip the HTC One and LG Optimus G Pro use, though the GS4 is clocked at a faster speed than both of them. The CPU features Krait 300 — a bump from the S4 Pro’s Krait 200, which results in a 15 percent improvement in instructions per clock (IPC) and a “speed-enhanced” Adreno 320 GPU. The 600 is also built using a 28nm process, just like the S4 Pro, and offers 802.11ac support (in addition to the standard suite of a/b/g/n). How does it hold up against the One, and what kind of improvement does the GS4 have over the GS3? The table below holds the answers, so let’s take a quick look.
|Samsung Galaxy S 4||HTC One||Samsung Galaxy S III|
|SunSpider 0.9.1 (ms)||772||991||1,194|
|GLBenchmark Egypt 2.5 HD Offscreen (fps)||39||34||15|
|SunSpider: lower scores are better. Samsung Galaxy S III was benchmarked on Android 4.1.|
The GS4 holds the record in five of our six benchmark tests.
On a full day of regular use, the GS4 managed to last for around 14-15 hours.
When a device has several variants, network performance is tricky to define, at least with one review unit. Samsung offers up to six possible sets of radio frequencies, so it’s ultimately up to individual operators to decide which one works best for their network. For example, T-Mobile and AT&T both have quad-band LTE (bands 2, 4, 5 and 17) and quad-band GSM / EDGE, but T-Mo offers 850 / AWS / 1900 / 2100 DC-HSPA+ up to 42 Mbps while AT&T’s HSPA+ bands cover 850 / 1900 / 2100. (As an aside, T-Mobile confirmed to us that its LTE antenna operates with 5-20MHz bandwidth.) Verizon and Sprint both use 850 / 1900 CDMA / EVDO as well as 850 / 1900 GSM / EDGE / UMTS / HSPA+, though Big Red’s option offers LTE in bands 4 and 13 (700 / AWS) while Sprint uses band 25 (1900). The Now Network uses a removable SIM and will unlock global GSM roaming after the first 90 days of service; we expect Verizon to offer international roaming as well, but we’ve yet to receive confirmation. The mainstream global models, the Snapdragon 600-powered I9505 and Exynos-powered I9500, offer quad-band GSM / EDGE, quad-band HSPA+ (850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100) and up to six LTE bands. All of this is a long way of saying that data performance will vary on which particular model you use, although our T-Mobile unit got speeds that were in line with the GS3 and other comparable flagship phones using the same network.
If you’re considering a move from an older Samsung device, the GS4 is absolutely the handset you want. Your learning curve will be minimal thanks to TouchWiz’s consistent UI, and besides, it’s generally a great smartphone — heck, the phone itself is the best Samsung handset we’ve used to date, and it’ll definitely give the One a run for its money. All told, both phones have different strengths and weaknesses, so one handset unfortunately won’t fit all. But when we compare it to the eye-catching look and feel of the One, we can’t help but think of one word to describe Samsung’s particular flagship entry: predictable.
Back against the wall
Making Sense of Android
So, that’s our wrap up of HTC One review. What do you think? Please leave your comments below.
- In a market already flooded with touchscreen devices, abandoning the one thing which makes BlackBerry unique – its keyboard – is a massive gamble, but it’s clear that change had to happen. Mobile users are now accustomed to large displays, touch interfaces and massive, well-stocked app stores. BlackBerry had to evolve and adapt rather than attempt to consolidate its rapidly-shrinking share of the pie. However, is the Z10 – along with the BB10 OS – simply too little, too late?
- The design of the Z10 is about as far removed from previous BlackBerry devices as it’s possible to get. The designers have clearly taken plenty of inspiration from Apple’s recent iPhone offerings, with plenty of rounded edges and straight, clean lines. The phone’s 768×1280 pixel 4.2-inch screen isn’t likely to trouble the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Google Nexus 4, but it’s slightly larger than the one seen on the iPhone 5 and is easy enough to interact with without getting finger strain. Above and below the screen are two large plastic chunks which make the phone longer than it really needs to be, but the Z10 is hardly a monster handset.
BlackBerry Z10 specs
- Dimensions: 130 x 65.6 x 9mm
- Weight: 137.5g
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
- Processor: Dual-core 1.5GHz Krait
- Graphics Core: Adreno 225
- RAM: 2GB
- Screen: 4.2-inch Super LCD 2 768×1280 pixels (355 ppi)
- Storage: 16GB internal, microSD card slot
- Camera: 8-megapixel with 1080p video recording, front-facing 2-megapixel camera with 720p video recording
- Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n dual-band, Bluetooth v4, 4G LTE support
- Other Features: 3.5mm headphone socket, NFC chip, Removeable battery
“BB10’s reliance on obtuse gesture commands is something of a double- edged sword: once committed to memory these finger swipes allow you to move around with relative ease, but it’s not particularly intuitive”
“BlackBerry World suffers from the same problems that its Windows Phone equivalent does; there’s a real lack of content when compared to the iOS App Store and Google Play”
BlackBerry Z10: the verdict
As much as its creators would like it to be, the Z10 isn’t going to be the phone to tempt Android and iPhone owners away from their respective platforms. What it does, it does very well – but there’s little here which is going to be genuinely new or surprising to anyone with a modern touchscreen smartphone.
BlackBerry’s previous preoccupation with physical keys means that it is now effectively playing catch-up with its rivals. BB10 is a start, however – and the Z10 a good platform for BlackBerry to build on in the future. Ditching the keyboard could end up being a cathartic process, and if the firm follows through with its intention of pushing its new software onto more powerful and desirable devices, we could see the renaissance the Canadian veteran so badly craves.