We get our greedy hands on one of the most desired smartphones of the day : The Oneplus One. Is it worth the begging for invites, the groveling, the craze ? We take a good hard look at the Oneplus One and give you our first impressions of the phone when it comes to hardware, software and its place in the Smartphone market of today.
During ‘Essential week’ I try to look for the answer : How much gear do we really need when on the road. Each day I’ll focus on a piece of gear or a solution to find the “essentials” a mobile geek really needs to Communicate, Create, Consume and be entertained.
Just the phone please
If there is one thing I constantly have around then it has to be my phone. My trusty Galaxy Note 3, allthough a little big, is my lifeline to the digital world when I leave the house. With fast 4G connection, the ability to hook up to wifi hotspots, a large screen, a fast processor and 32 gig of onboard storage .. it kinda ticks all the boxes. Lets see :
Allthough I seldom make phonecalls on the device itself, I mostly use it in handsfree mode in the car. (I do all my ‘classic’ phonecalls from the car) Occasionally I will shoot off a quick call using the Galaxy Gear smartwatch that I have around my wrist. The majority of my communications however are digitam : Email, Instant messages, Social Media and even Google hangouts. The sceen and the speed on the Note3 accomodate that perfectly. A little big for a classic ‘mobile phone’ but more the adept at being “a digital sidearm”.
The Note’s screen is big and bright and it has some room to spare for content, so reading books, surfing and watching video’s on the device is pretty sweet.
The experience is enhanced by the S-pen that makes surfing a little easier using the pen instead of your stubby pinkie. Listening to music and podcasts ? not realy a problem aside from the fact the size and wheight of the note 3 do make it a little hefty to take out for a jog.
As for creating audio and video material the Note3 is pretty powerfull. The camera is great, the onboard microphone too.. but typing on the device can be a little hard. Using “Swiftkey” instead of the native Samsung onscreen keyboard helps a little, but typing out long emails and blogposts is not something to look forward to. The note3 is big , but also heavy, so holding it your hands and thumb-typing the next edition of “The Hobbit” .. will be painfull.
I went online and found a great little bluetooth keyboard from RAPOO, the E6300. I had originally purchased it for use with my Android Tablet .. but there were some pairing difficulties. Rapoo reported back to me that the keyboard was “designed” for iPads and IOS devices, but it worked great when pairing it with the Note 3.
Just the phone ?
well, the “extras” to get everything done with “just” the Note3 do require you to “add” a couple of ingredients. I managed to use the Note 3 as my “full” daily driver when attaching a pair of Apple earbuds (they have a great microphone) and the Rapoo bleutooth keyboard. After being able to tilt the Note 3 in the optimal viewing angle, I was able to punch out the required email shitstorm and even cobble together a decent blogpost in Evernote.
Using just the Note 3 (and the external keyboard) does have its advantages.
- Everything in one device
- Always connected
- Keyboard + stylus combo = Quite effective
- Heavy drain on the battery during heavy use.
- Little on the heavy side.
- Small screen
- Rapoo keyboard is a little on the small side.
Yes you can survive on just the Note3, but only barely. Be prepared to focus on mobile apps (since this is a mobile OS) and have a charger handy. The Rapoo is a nice addition to what is in essence a VERY powerfull smartphone with a nice big screen. To get things done in a pinch these “essentials” will get you through the day .. although we are afraid the Note 3 (on a single charge) … won’t.
Its Go-go-gadget review time again as we get our greedy little geek hands on the latest gadgets from Samsung. We do an in depth review of their new Phablet the “Note 3” and turn ourselves into Michael Knight (from Knightrider .. remember ?) as we slap on the worlds most advanced smart watch : The Galaxy Gear.
I remember a scene in the movie “Zoolander” where the main character played by Ben Stiller, a vain spoiled male model, gets a call on his cellphone. He answers the call and starts talking into this insanely little phone that he holds to his ear, a nearly invisible device pinched between his thumb and index finger. The scene is funny because it deals with the popular trend in the phone industry of the late 90’s to make devices smaller and smaller.
The device I’m reviewing today is clearly not an offspring of that trend. The Huawei Ascend Mate is probably one of the largest cellphones on the market today. At a whopping 6.1 inch, it is even larger than the already bulky Galaxy Note 2 that is currently my ‘communication device’ of choice. Before we dive into the distinctions between a “phone” and a “communicator” … lets just take a closer look at the Ascend Mate.
The screen of the Ascend Mate covers almost the entire surface of the 6.1 inch phone device. With a resolution of 1280 by 720 (at 241 pixels per inch) it is amazingly bright and has a realistic colour spectrum. What I found appealing is its visibility in bright sunlight. Unlike the note 2 (Whose screen is also quite bright but is terrible to use in bright sunlight) the Mate manages to give you a “good look” at whatever is on your screen, no matter if the twin suns of Tantooine are setting right behind your back. But the one thing that does stand out is the fact that the colours are very “natural” and that is surely a bonus.
The Mate comes with a front and rear facing camera with a respective resolution of 8 and 1 Megapixel. Both camera’s deliver good pictures (we tested them both outside and inside) and the flash LED’s are bright enough signal the Rusky’s on the international space station.
Battery life on the Mate is quite good considered the sheer size of the screen. The downside is that the battery is not replaceable (You can’t even remove the back cover of the Mate, Sim and memory slots are on the side). We managed a day of extensive use and still had a couple of jolts left at sunset.
The Ascend Mate comes with an adapted version of Android 4.1 (not 4.2) where Huawei decided to pre-populate your phone with most of the apps you need. All the apps are nicely organised in folders (For example : There is a GOOGLE folder with most of not ALL google apps in the Market place) and this is surely a bonus. Every phone manufacturer needs to give their software experience an added value. Some build skins, but Huawei decided to be your personal shopper in the Marketplace and pre-load your phone with all the “standard” apps that you might need. I like this, because then you are no longer dependant on the manufacturer to upload their ‘in-house’ apps, you just depend on the core developers. The interface of the Mate is sliiiiightly different to “stock” Android, but this is hardly noticeable. This lean and mean approach gives the Mate the speedy swifty feel it needs and surely adds to the pleasure of its user. The culprit to blame here would be its 1.5 Gigaherz processor and its 2 gigs of ram.
This is no phone for Tinkerbell
Like the previous Huawei phone we tested, the Mate feels like a well finished product.. One downside we have are the plastic ‘latches’ that cover the phone’s sim and SD card slots : They might break off in the long run. When we first took the phone in our hands we expected it to be bulky and hard to handle. Guess what : Its NOT . The Mate’s size is well proportioned and its internal weight distribution is well balanced. Using the phone in both portrait and landscape mode is a breeze. We compared it to using the Galaxy Note 2 and the latter does not win that Phablet prizefight. Although larger, the Mate is surprisingly more easy to hold and handle then the slightly smaller Note2. However, single handed operation is not an option and two hands are required to type and hold the phone at the same time. So this brings us to the question : Is this a phone at all ?
The Huawei Mate is the Nokia Communicator of the modern Phablets.
We hate the word “Phablets”. It hints toward a mutational subset of mutant devices that are too small to be a tablet and to large to be a phone. At 6.1 inch across the Note2 is surely a “Phablet”. Slightly to large for a phone, slightly to small for a tablet. With the addition of just a measly 0.6 inch (compared to the Note 2) the Huawei Mate slides into the Sub-Tablet category and does it brilliantly. Well balanced in weight distribution, having a crisp screen, a nice interface and decent battery life the Huawei Mate is the perfect companion for those who want both a phone and a tablet but do not have the cash to buy both. Yes : It looks dorky when you get a phone call … but so what ? How many phone calls to the younger generation still make every day ? Its all Texting, Twitter, Facebook and the likes these days. A real time ‘audio only’ conversation is something that is becoming scarce for Teens anyway.
So Geeks : Should you get one ?
Well : If you want to live on the socially-acceptable cutting edge and carry around a ‘communicator’ instead of a phone : Get one ! At around 300 euros the price is way below the ‘premium priced’ products of both Apple and Samsung and it still gets you a very cool device. The one thing you need to ‘click’ in your brain is the concept of ‘ a phone ‘. Just like the Nokia Communicator, the Mate is a “communications device” that enables you to connect to to your digital lifestyle and not to an Party Chat conference call from the 80’s. Forget concepts like “sliding it into your back pocket” or “making a quick phone call” The Mate is the lovechild between your Smartphone and your iPad making both pretty much obsolete once you have the Mate. Its not light, It does not fit in your back pocket, it does not have a 6 day battery life .. but neither does your tablet. This is not a phone, its an advanced digital communication device that provides you with connectivity, content, computational power and entertainment… and you can also use it to call your nan.
Links : Find out more about the Mate at Huawei’s official page.