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1 comment April 29th, 2010

Samsung Galaxy review

Here’s the Samsung Galaxy, Bell’s first Android powered smartphone. Here are the relevant specs: Android 1.5, 3.2″ 480×320 OLED display, 8GB of built in storage, BT,WiFi and a 5 megapixel camera.

Click the video for the tour of the Galaxy.

The screen looks fantastic. One of the advantages of OLED displays is that they have extremely deep blacks – vibrant colours and amazing viewing angles. This makes them great for showing off pictures. The OLED display on the Galaxy does have one problem; it’s horrible outdoors so if you use your phone a lot in the sun you can stop reading here.

When the screen turns off you can turn it back on by pressing and holding a hold button on the right side. This is one of those minor things but when you press the button it takes 3/4 of a second for the screen to wake up. This makes the Galaxy feel kind of unintuitive. When you press the hold button the screen should turn on right away to tell you, that you have to press and hold it.

As far as input goes you get the basic Android keyboard. It works quite well and on the Galaxy’s not-that-small 3.2″ display it works well.

In front of the Galaxy are menu, home, back, send and end keys along with a navigation pad. I didn’t have any major problems with the layout but I kind of wish the back and home keys were swapped since it would make it easier to multitask.

The first thing I noticed about the Galaxy is that it’s very generic – it’s just plain Google customized Android 1.5. Samsung makes a big deal about putting their TouchWiz interface on all their phones so I’m kind of suprised by this. Of course, for some power users this is actually a good thing since they can customize the Galaxy how they want and don’t need to remove things.

While I found the software generic it’s still quite nice. If you use Google products like gmail, calendar, latitude all you have to do is enter your google login and the Galaxy will automatically download your email, calendar, contacts, etc.

You can also access the Android marketplace which has a lot of applications.

The camera has a resolution of 5 megapixel with autofocus and flash. Indoors it tends to use slower shutter speeds so you’ll get a lot of blurry photos if your subjects aren’t still or if you have shakey hands. There aren’t a lot of options for the camera, just resolution and flash really. The flash tends to blast subjects out.

In the end I found it average for a 5 megapixel camera.

Video is limited to a resolution of 352×288 at around 18fps – video capture is not the Galaxy’s strong point.

I noticed a few problems with the Galaxy. First off the Galaxy lags sometime for no apparent reason.  Now lagging can always happen when you’re multitasking but I wasn’t always doing that when the phone lagged.

Another problem is that it occasionally buffers keystrokes. A good example of this is when I’m using the camera. While I use the camera the Galaxy gets a little sluggish when I press the shutter button – I usually mistaken this for it not registering my button press. So in the end the Galaxy ends up taking a bunch of pictures that I don’t want it to since it buffers the presses.

Sound quality was about average – there is some hiss and voices can be slightly harsh.  RF performance was slightly above average. Compared with a Nokia N97 the Galaxy was slightly worse.

Battery life was difficult to test because there very weak TELUS/Bell HSPA signal in my house so the Galaxy sat there searching for signal most of the time..

There are 2 main things wrong with the Galaxy. While I love Android the Galaxy has a pretty plain jane version of Android 1.5. With 1.6, 2.0 and 2.1 devices are already out/just around the corner the Galaxy was released at a bad time. The other problem is the fact that the Galaxy lags at times.

Still there are upsides. Some will appreciate the fact that the Galaxy is pretty much uncustomized. If you’re indoors a lot (like me) the OLED display is a huge upside. I like to look at pictures and show them off and the OLED’s wide viewing angle plus awesome colours are great for this. It really puts most of the LCD displays/monitors in my house to shame. The 5 megapixel camera also pairs nicely with the display.

In the end I liked the OLED display and the 8GB of built in memory (saves you a trip to the store) and to a lesser extent the 5 megapixel display. Otherwise not much stood out about the Galaxy.

1 comment December 30th, 2009

LG Eve Video Editor

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you all got the phone you wanted for Christmas.

I reviewed the LG Eve last week. While I wasn’t crazy about it LG asked me to take a look at the built in video editor. Check it out:

While the the quality of the Eve’s recordings aren’t good I was pretty impressed with the video editor. Here’s the video I shot AND editing using the Eve:

1 comment December 25th, 2009

LG IQ review

LG IQ front

I was very excited when I first saw the LG Eve and IQ. They represent LG’s first really attempts at Smartphones. As a person who loves phones I hoped that the Eve and IQ would be competitve entries in the marketplace.

While I liked aspects of the Eve ultimately I found it came up short. Here’s the IQ, let’s see how I like it.

Let’s talk specs; the IQ has a WinMo6.5, 1Ghz processor, WVGA display, 4 row QWERTY keyboard, 5mp camera, WiFiBTMicroSDHC, etc, etc. It also has a fingerprint reader/optical mouse plus an optional projector that attaches to the battery cover. I tried the projector in my hands-on video a while back.

It’s not very good but it’s still a really cool accessory.

LG IQ profile

The touchscreen is the resistive variety so it works best if you use your finger nails or a stylus. I found it slightly small for it’s resolution; 800×480 on a 3.2″ display so I found it hard to tap certain UI elements like the  icons across the top of the screen – even when I used my fingernails (which aren’t super short) – best to stick with the stylus. The stylus doesn’t fit inside the IQ so you’ll have to bring the included stylus around with you. There is an on screen keyboard when you’re using the IQ in portrait mode. Like I just said the little small (actually it’s too narrow) to type effectively with your fingers.

The keyboard is quite nice. The keys have a great feel when you press them in. I like how it has shortcuts to open up the messaging client, browser, calendar and main menu. I also like how it has directional keys.

There is predictive text entry when using either keyboard. If it guesses the wrong word you can choose the right one by moving left or right. I just leave it off since I used the physical keyboard all the time.

When the screen’s closed up there are send, end, back keys plus an optical mouse/finger print reader. The optical mouse really works more as a scroll wheel. You can use it to scroll vertically or horizontally. While it doesn’t work poorly or anything I don’t see how it’s better than just scrolling with your finger. I would have rather LG had just put a navigation pad there – too bad they’re going out of style on WinMo devices.

Like I mentioned before you can also use the optical mouse as a fingerprint reader. You can set the phone up so you have to swipe your finger before you can use it – I didn’t test this.

There is also an LG interface but it’s a bit of a disaster. LG calls it their S-class interface – they should have picked a better name, S-class has already been taken.

First off LG has their own today screen. You scroll the screen left or right. Scrolling left brings up your favourite contacts, right brings up your favourite media files. The center screen has some program shortcuts along the bottom, you can scroll those left and right to see more programs. There’s a link to bring up the main menu. You can bring up a menu that allows you to open the wireless manager, activate flight mode, change and change the ringers/alert or themes. While a bit of a mess I didn’t mind the today screen.

The main menu has 4 categories; communication, multimedia, applications and settings. Each category get’s it’s own row with 4 icons. To view more options you can scroll each row left and right.

At this point you can open the keyboard. There are still 4 categories but now you can see 8 icons on each one. Each icon is just a picture, there’s no text which makes this menu view pretty pointless – it’s really more for show (notice how I used it in my IQ picture – it sure looks impressive).

If you’re already in a program and the keyboard is open, pressing the menu button brings up shortcuts to messenger, internet explorer, search, schedules, write new message, message invbox, write new email and email inbox, call history and your contacts. What really irks me is that I can’t figure out how to bring up the S-class interface when the keyboard is open.

If I wanted to be mean I’d say the ‘S’ in S-class stands for something but I’m a nice guy and won’t.

The IQ does have one saving grace – the multitask button. Once you have the programs you want open you can bypass the LG and WinMo menus completely.

Besides the S-class interface LG has their own contact manager, SMS client, music player, photo album, plus another program named ‘my multimedia’ FM radio, camera, video recorder, calendar, alarm clock,  weather, calculator, tip calculator and stop watch. LG even has their own settings menu. I didn’t mind these LG programs.

If you don’t like the LG programs the equivalent WinMo 7 apps can still be accessed via the WinMo 7 main menu (just tap the top left). You can also turn off the LG applications and use the WinMo ones.

The LG programs resemble the ones you find on LG’s non-smartphones. One thing I’ve noticed about them is that they use relatively large fonts – this is a good thing since text on the IQ’s 800×480 display can be kind of small at times.

Unlike some of the IQ’s competitors the IQ doesn’t come with Opera so browsing is handled solely by Internet Explorer. While it doesn’t support tabbed browsing it was able to load my test page (www.howardchui.com/speedtest) in around 15 seconds – not bad at all.

For some reason the IQ wouldn’t show up on my computer whenever I connected it to my computer. While the IQ would charge it wouldn’t show up under mobile device center. I tried multiple computers. Maybe there’s an option I missed under LG’s messy interface – but at the same time, I’m quite thorough and tried everything.

There is a music player and a photo program plus a program named ‘my multimedia’ which appears to be the same program as the photo program only you can choose which folder to look for media – it’s kind of confusing. One thing I liked about the picture viewers is that you can choose favourite pictures to show up on the home screen. It’s nice to see that they’re integrated.

To test video playback I transcoded some video from my high definition camcorder. My camcorder captures video at 1440×1080 at 60fps interlaced at around 15 or 20mbps (sorry I don’t remember off hand) as AVCHD files. I transcoded them using handbrake as 1920×1080  h.264 inside a mp4 file container (basically they’re mp4 files). To make a long story short I was able to play files which were 1920x1080p with a bitrate of 4mbps with no skipping or hiccups in the video. While it’s true there’s little point to being able to play high definition on a 800×480 display it’s still amazing that the IQ can handle it. I tried doing this on a Samsung Omnia 2 which a 800Mhz processor and it would not playback the file properly.

I should point out that I had to use Windows Media Player to play the file smoothly. The LG video player was choppy.

As far as music goes the IQ uses a micro USB connector – and you don’t get a micro USB to 3.5mm adapter in the box (at least I didn’t). The built in speaker is average sounding – it’s not terrible loud and kind of thin.

RF performance is lacking, TELUS and Bell share the same HSPA network. In areas where I can use a Blackberry Bold, Samsung Galaxy/Omnia, Nokia N97 just fine the IQ won’t work even though the signal meter says there’s signal.

It was hard to test the battery – I have very weak TELUS/Bell HSPA signal in my house (even in my office which faces forward and is on the top floor) so the IQ spends most of the day searching for signal.

I felt the IQ was better on paper than it was in person. That said on paper it brings a lot to the table.

In the end the IQ does have it’s problems. First and foremost it has questionable RF performance. It has a confusing menu system (though you can always disable it,  and no 3.5mm headphone jack. Despite these flaws as far as WinMo phones go the IQ wasn’t bad. I’m sure the USB connectivity problem is just my unit.

As far as WinMo phones go the IQ isn’t a bad choice it has a decent nice feature set, fast processor, a nice keyboard, high resolution display a 5 megapixel camera, finger print reader (if that sort of thing floats your boat) and even a pretty nifty projector that fits on the back. Let’s not forget the multitask button.  Another thing to consider is that the IQ is currently $100 on a 3 year on TELUS. While I don’t think any phone is worth it on a 3 year contract the IQ is relatively speaking a good deal.

Howard Chui 12.20.2009

22 comments December 23rd, 2009

LG Eve review

LG Eve

Here’s the LG Eve, their first Android powered phone. It has an amazing 5 row QWERTY keyboard, Android 1.5, 5 megapixel autofocus camera with flash, WiFi, Bluetooth, micro SDHC card slot. On paper it’s a solid device. Let’s check it out.

One of the things that really attracted me to the LG Eve is that I’ve recently been looking for a replacement for my HTC Fuze. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my Fuze and I think that Windows Mobile is a fairly solid platform with quite a lot of very solid apps. No UI is better than SPB Mobile Shell 3.0. Even HTC TouchFlo has come a long way since it’s initial launch on the HTC Tytn II. What has been frustrating me lately is the lack of newer apps that I would like to try like foursquare and Yammer. I don’t love the iPhone for work leaving the Android the only OS as a viable alternative for me. Since Android is the new kid on the block, there is a lot of current development on the Android platform.

My work phone NEEDS to have a keyboard because I actually do a lot of writing and texting making a hardware keyboard mandatory. I hate the Dream/G1 because of the awkward lip that it has. While it seems like a small deal, if you type on it long enough, the hand positioning required to work around the lip causes stress on the hand. From a form factor perspective, the LG Eve is ideal. The screen is a beautiful 3 inches. It sports a 5 row keyboard which is really nice but it took me a while to get used to. I’m so used to 4 rows and I automatically press the alternate key to want to use the numbers which is unneeded. Everything is fairly well placed. It comes with a dedicated headphone jack which is a nice touch in comparison to the HTCs.

Unlike the Dream, the Eve allows you to use a soft keyboard when you don’t have the hardware keyboard open. It chooses a T9 keyboard which is not a bad choice. The screen is fairly narrow and fitting any more keys would make it really hard to type. It would have been nice if it implemented Cootek’s keyboard for the Android but the LG keyboard works decently well because it’s assisted with an auto-complete/auto-correct. The auto-complete/auto-correct feature however is cumbersome to use with the slide-out keyboard because of its implementation. I had a really frustrating time with the auto-complete feature with the hardware keyboard for a number of reasons. The first is that the only way I could select a word on the screen is to use my finger to select the word that I want. Intuitively, I would expect to be able to use the arrow key to select the word I want. I found that pressing the right arrow key, it would select the word. Secondly, you need to press the space bar twice to select a word and move on. While it seems like a small deal, it’s not intuitive and becomes cumbersome when you’re using an instant message client. The end result is that the last word is repeated as an extra IM in the native Google Talk client. So for instance, if I intend to type “The end is near”, what you’ll see on the screen is “The end is near” followed by “near” in the next line because it’s executing the auto-complete after the fact. The good news is that it forces you to use proper punctuation and help with your English grammar.

LG made a few interesting design choices. For one, it forgoes the dedicated answer and end button along with a navigation pad. The only buttons in front are the back, home and menu buttons. The menu button is a physical button that you can actually press while the back and home buttons are the annoying touch sensitive buttons that ‘press’ if you accidentally brush your finger on them. The home and back buttons means something unexpected will happen  anytime you hand the Eve to someone – I hate touch sensitive buttons.

Anyways I wasn’t sure how I’d like it but it actually worked out decently because it compensated itself with some good choices on it’s customized home screen UI. It has a very different design and function from the HTC Sense but it works well in its own right. It has a sticky panel which follows you from screen to screen the same way the iPhone interface does. This is particularly useful because there is no dedicated phone button. I also like that the home screen rotates through – if you scroll to the left home screen and scroll left again it will take you to the right home screen.  I’ve always found it a bit annoying that the default Android screen doesn’t do this.

The main menu has also been customized. Basically you can view all your apps from your main menu. There are different categories which you can put apps in. The idea is similar to LG’s stupid S-Class interface but it actually works on the Eve since you don’t have to scroll side to side to view each category’s apps.

Another small enhancement I like is you can turn WiFi/BT on and off by pulling down the top. It beats having to dig around the settings like you do on a plain Android phone.

LG includes Moxier Mail with the LG. Basically Moxier lets you connect the Eve to an Exchange server so you can have push email, contacts, tasks, calendar, etc. I didn’t test this.

If you use Google stuff like Google Mail, calendar, talk, maps then the Eve LG has apps for those.

You also get Quick Office so you can edit word, excel, power point. If you want to create those files you’ll have to pay extra. So do yourself a favour and save a couple of blank documents on a SDHC card.

The camera has a resolution of 5 megapixels. It’s capable of taking decent (for a camera phone) pictures. I did find that the camera uses relatively slow shutter speeds which makes it less useful if your subject isn’t posing. I tried taking a lot of baby pictures with the Eve and got many many blurry pictures because of this. The camera does have some nice features including ISO setting and even a manual focus!

Video recording is much less impressive as you’re limited to a maximum resolution of 320×240 – it felt like 2006-2007 when I saw the maximum resolution. You can use the flash as a video light but it has a very limited range.

The video editor allow you to trim video add sound or subtitles or change the video’s colour. Really, who cares when the maximum resolution is only 320×240.

Music playback is handled by the default android music player. It’s adequate.

I noticed a divx option in the settings. I didn’t test it much but the few divx files I grabbed off of the internet wouldn’t play.

Now LG is really pushing the Eve’s social networking capabilities. Out of the box you get a Facebook, bebo, twitter and Myspace programs. As far as instant messages goes there’s MSN messenger, yahoo instant messenger and Google talk.

There is a programmed called SN Manager which handles Facebook, Bebo and Twitter. I tested mostly SN Manager’s Facebook feature against the Facebook app you can download from the Android Marketplace.  I’m sad to say I actually preferred the one you can download from the Android marketplace.  SN Manager’s UI takes up too much screen space. SN Manager should allow you to read messages in your inbox but when I used this feature it showed my inbox as being empty.

While using the phone I had a few anomalies that drove me crazy. For one, the Eve would sporadically freeze or not wake up giving me a Black Screen of Death. The only way to get around it was to physically remove the battery which made it frustrating to use. It can take quite a while for the Eve to boot up after you remove the battery. Also, if you’re someone who keeps their finger nails very short you’ll have a lot of trouble removing the battery. I thought the crashing might be specific to my review unit but the second review unit is equally unstable. Hopefully LG will provide updates that fix this.

Another problem was that when I put in my work IMAP settings for mail, it would suddenly spawn hundreds of threads on the server causing me to hog up a ton of server resources. However, when I had a colleague put on their settings on the phone, it seems to work fine. I had no problems with the same settings on my Windows Mobile and iPhone. It also kept complaining that it was running out of memory every so often which I haven’t seen before on my HTC Magic.

RF performance is quite poor. I found the Eve’s incoming sound was breaking up badly in areas where a Nokia N86 barely had any problems.  Sound quality is quite good as is the maximum earpiece volume. One minor issue I noticed with the earpiece was that it was that the ear piece’s sweet spot is kind of hard to find and hold.

I really wanted to like the Eve, it’s got a relatively nice form factor. Aside from the idiotic touch sensitive buttons it has a very nice keyboard, fits well in your hand is has good build quality. However in the end the Eve was a big disappointment. What good is a phone if it isn’t stable? I wouldn’t be as bothered if say the browser crashed occasionally but for the entire phone to crash – well that’s unacceptable.

It’s been a long long time since I’ve played with a phone that crashes this much. Having to take the battery out to reboot it is even worse. What do you do if it’s really cold and you don’t want to take your gloves off to pop the battery? If it just happened to one unit I could blame it on that particular unit but I noticed this on 2 different ones. I was also disappointed with the video recorder, I mean the Eve has a 5 megapixel camera and a built in video editor so I was expecting a little more. The RF is also quite lackluster. RF performance may not be a deal breaker for everyone if they have strong signal everywhere they go but these days many phones have decent RF.

Now I realize I might have come off a bit harsh in the review – if LG fixes the freezing I’d say the Eve isn’t a bad phone phone. But unless that happens all I can say is that the Eve is a decent first try but LG really needs to try harder next time.

Howard Chui and Kelvin Kang 12.17.2009

56 comments December 18th, 2009

Video: Very quick comparison of the LG Eve and Samsung Galaxy

I have a LG Eve and Samsung Galaxy sitting around. They’re both Android phones.

While they’re on 2 different carriers I thought I’d do a very quick comparison of the 2. Full reviews of each device will come soon.

3 comments December 15th, 2009

Video: Blackberry Storm 9550 review

Here’s my review of the Blackberry Storm 9550 (the Storm 2):

Click more to see a quick summary of my thoughts.

First and foremost the Storm 2 has terrific on screen keyboards. The inclusion of WiFi is nice plus my Storm came with a nice bundle. Besides the charger, leather case and usb cable mine also came with a neoprene sleeve and a car adapter.

I wasn’t crazy about how RIM integrated the four buttons into the touchscreen though this is a minor complaint.

If you’re deciding between the Storm 2 and the Bold 9700 (you can get both on TELUS up here in Canada) it’s a really tough choice. I loved the 9700 but the Storm’s on screen keyboard is so good that I can’t decide…

While the only 2 major differences between this one and the original Storm are screen and the WiFi the screen makes the Storm 2 a major upgrade. You can now type really, really fast with the Storm.

While I really liked the Storm 2 I can’t help but think this is what RIM should have released when they came out with the original Storm. The first Storm didn’t feel like a Blackberry, this newer Storm does.

Howard Chui 12.14.2009

2 comments December 14th, 2009

Video: My review of the Blackberry Bold 9700

Here’s my review of the Blackberry Bold 9700:

click more to get a quick run down of what I thought:

BTW most of my reviews are in high definition so check that feature.

I liked the Bold 9000 and while it has been a long time since it came out chances were I’d like the 9700 as well.

Turns out it was true. Here are some of the improvements the 9700 brings ot the table:

  • trackpad (no more replacing trackballs)
  • smaller form factor
  • better build quality
  • slightly high resolution display
  • OS 5.0 (unless you upgraded your 9000 too)
  • 3.2mp autofocus camera

You do lose a stereo speaker and I guess you might not like the smaller size if you have huge hands.

You still get

  • good messaging capabilities out of the box
  • pretty snappy performance (with the exception of the browser)
  • very efficient multitasking
  • reasonably good integration between apps
  • a good QWERTY keyboard
  • decent battery life for a HSPA smartphone

So while I really liked the 9700 I’d like to see a better camera. The 9700′s camera doesn’t really suck but it could be better. Especially 3.2mp is basically status quo. The browser needs to go – RIM, hurry up and bring a new faster browser out!

Howard Chui

12.08.2009

3 comments December 8th, 2009

My review of the Samsung Omnia 2

So I just posted my review of the Samsung Omnia 2 (please be patient while YouTube processes it). Hit read more to get a quick summary.

While the Omnia 2 is a dream phone on paper in practice I was a little disappointed. Samsung has really gone all out customizing the Omnia 2. While I liked the customization they made the Omnia 2 and it’s 800Mhz processor feel slow. This really diminished the added value of the customizations. The screen is beautiful as long as you’re not in bright sunlight. Sound quality and RF and both top notch.

In the end the screen is nice enough that I’d recommend the Omnia 2 to some people. Also, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t care about the customizations you can turn them off or better yet you can probably flash the ROM to remove them completely.

Add comment November 27th, 2009

Samsung Omnia 2 on Bell unboxing and first impressions

I just got a Omnia 2 today. Here are my first impressions:

It’s kind of hard to tell but the screen looks amazing, stunning, incredible. Not only is it high resolution but the colour just blows me away. It’s easily the best thing about the Omnia 2.

Other random thoughts. While it has a 800Mhz processor Opera still feels kind of slow. The hexagonal button in front isn’t a navigation pad – instead it’s a single button that looks like a nav pad. It’s a waste of space.

TouchWiz 2.0 is nice but having the Windows Mobile menus and TouchWiz makes for a inconsistant user experience.

The camera is very similar to the camera on the Samsung i910. It’s very good except when you’re trying to take close ups where the flash is needed. In those situations it blasts the subject out – that said you can raise the ISO to 800 so you don’t need to use the flash as much.

In the past, whenever I tested a Bell CDMA phone there was always very low signal levels in my house. The Omnia 2 runs on Bell’s new HSPA+ network and it too gets very little signal – FYI.

Anyways that’s all for now. I’ll have a full review up later after I’ve had a chance to play with it more and drool at the screen some more.

9 comments November 7th, 2009

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