Mobile Geeks http://www.mobilegeeks.com Covering the Latest Mobile Technology News Fri, 31 Jul 2015 05:20:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 Meizu M2 Note Review – Stunning Display for $170 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/review/meizu-m2-note-review-stunning-display-for-170/ http://www.mobilegeeks.com/review/meizu-m2-note-review-stunning-display-for-170/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 05:20:40 +0000 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/?post_type=review&p=28401

Affordable good quality smartphones are becoming more and more common, but knowing which ones are actually good quality and don’t have any major compromises is a little harder to find. The M2 Note was released only a few months after the M1 Note, I love the excitement that they didn’t want to wait to refine […]

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Affordable good quality smartphones are becoming more and more common, but knowing which ones are actually good quality and don’t have any major compromises is a little harder to find. The M2 Note was released only a few months after the M1 Note, I love the excitement that they didn’t want to wait to refine the design and it’s even $50 cheaper. Meizu has been a long favorite here at Mobile Geeks so we’re excited to dive in and let you know the good the bad and the great.

What’s Under the Hood – Specifications

The Meizu M2 Note is 5.5 inches with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 on an IGZO LCD panel from Sharp which is amazing quality and well above it’s price point. Powering this phablet we’ve got a 64-bit octa-core processor by MediaTek the MT6783 running at 1.3Ghz along side a Mali-T720 MP3 GPU with 2GB of RAM. It’s dual SIM 4G LTE with the option to use the 2nd slot for expandable storage via MicroSD card. The camera offers 13 megapixels on the rear and 5 megapixel on the front. It runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Meizu’s Flyme 4.5 with a 3100mAh battery.

  • 5.5-inch, 1,080 x 1,920 resolution, IGZO display (403ppi)
  • 1.3GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor
  • 2GB RAM, Mali-T720 MP3 GPU
  • 13-megapixel primary camera, 5MP front camera
  • 16GB/32GB internal storage (expandable up to 128GB)
  • 4G, dual-SIM, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, USB OTG
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop with Flyme UI 4.5
  • 150.9 x 75.2 x 8.7 mm
  • 149 grams
  • 3,100mAh battery
  • Grey, White, Blue, Pink

Meizu_M2_Note30
Design – Feels Good in the Hand

Made from a single piece of polycarbonate plastic the M2 Note doesn’t feel budget, the in hand feel is similar to the way the iPhone 5C feels (which has to one of the best built plastic phones on the market). The sides of the phone are rounded and sloped which gives the handset a very comfortable feeling and it’s simple design gives it a sleek profile.

The power button can be found on the left hand side of the phone which I’ve always found takes a bit of getting used to since you have to power up with your index finger if you’re a righty. I’m used to have phones with the power button on the right so I can hit it with my thumb. Though if you’re familiar with the M1 Note it’s change position from the top of the device to the side. This is a step up since reaching the power button on the top isn’t easy with phones this big. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the left hand power button, but it seems to be the popular location for this seasons Chinese handsets.

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Meizu_M2_Note21 Meizu_M2_Note20 Meizu_M2_Note08 Meizu_M2_Note19 Meizu_M2_Note26 Meizu_M2_Note03

The physical home button acts as a back button if you tap on it, if you press it you’ll head back home. You quickly get used to this.

Weighing in at 149 grams the device is well balanced making it possible to use with one hand if you’re paws are big enough.

The grey version that we have for review has a matte finish, the white, blue and pink editions are all glossy. If you’re going to choose, I’d go for the finish that is a fingerprint magnet.

Meizu_M2_Note04

Display – The Full HD IGZO is Great!

Display and Camera are the two things that usually cause me to turn my nose up at a budget device. The display on the M2 Note is great, it’s brilliant, bright, crisp and clear. You don’t expect to see an IGZO display on a budget device…period. It also has a luminosity of 450cd/m2 which makes it a pretty bright screen. Sunlight visibility isn’t an issue and color temperature seems neutral, though you can adjust it in settings if you find it a little cool (or warm).

Meizu_M2_Note06

Connectivity – Dual SIM is Good

If you’re ever on the road and pick up a 2nd SIM for data you’ll know how great it is not loose out on your home number. Though one of the issues with budget handsets over premium ones that are dual SIM is that only one of the SIMs offers data, meaning that you’ll have to move your home SIM to voice and text only. This is a pain because if you’re not using your phone on the road and want to pull from 2 different data plans you’ll have to physically move the SIMs around…which is a huge pain.

One issue that I did come across with connectivity is that the GPS wasn’t that accurate. I was using it to navigate to dinner here in Taipei and the alley’s are tightly packed, so 50m off can take you down the wrong road. I made it there eventually, but I was disappointed in how long it took to track. Only a few hours earlier I was using the Oppo R7 to navigate around with similar conditions and found 0 issue.

Meizu M2 Note M464U MTK6753 Octa Core 1.3GHz Octa Core 2GB RAM 16GB/32GB ROM 5.5 inch (Grey, 16GB ROM)

Price: $165.00

(0 customer reviews)

11 used & new available from $165.00

Meizu M2 Note vs M1 Note – The perfect Iteration

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It’s only been a few months since the M1 Note was released, so it’s interesting the changes that they’ve made to its successor. The biggest is the processor, it’s the MT6753 at 1.3Ghz on the M2 Note which is about 25% slower than the MT6752 at 1.7Ghz on the M1 Note. Gameplay is still solid and we haven’t noticed any big difference in the UI performance. It’s thinner 8.7mm compared to 8.9 but it’s a little heavier 149grams compared to 145grams. As I mentioned in the design section the power button has moved from the top to the left hand side of the phone.

A physical home button has also been added, this is a big step up from the integrated circle on the M1 Note. It’s more like the MX4 Pro which we loved. It actually feels a little bit like a trackpad, which we know it isn’t, but that doesn’t stop us from swiping left and right using it.

Meizu_M2_Note17 Meizu_M2_Note15 Meizu_M2_Note14 Meizu_M2_Note13 Meizu_M2_Note11 Meizu_M2_Note10 Meizu_M2_Note23 Meizu_M2_Note24 Meizu_M2_Note25 Meizu_M2_Note27 Meizu_M2_Note28 Meizu_M2_Note22

Between the two devices there is no doubt that that I would choose the M2 Note, the performance hit in the benchmarks doesn’t affect the day to day interactions with the UI. The M2 Note feels polished with the same stand up camera as the M1 Note and it’s $170, the M1 Note has dropped down from $225 to $200 over the past 2 months, so I’m sure we can expect the M2 Note to do the same.

Meizu-Flyme.4.0-UI-3-1024x606

Flyme 4.5 – Smart UI but Takes Getting Used To

If you’ve used Flyme OS before they’ll be no surprises, if you’ve never used a Meizu before there are quite a few shortcuts that make using the device a whole lot easier. Like many Chinese phones it doesn’t come with an App drawer, so everything is on your homescreen, so if you can’t find something you have to go digging through folders. The other issue we should address right off the bat is that since this is a Chinese handset it doesn’t come with all the Google bells and whistles. This isn’t like getting a Chinese edition of a ZTE like the Axon which doesn’t even come with Google Play installed. Here you only get a handful of Google services pre-installed, the Play Store, Maps, Google Now and Google settings are installed but you’re missing Chrome, YouTube, Google+, Photos, Hangouts, etc., will have to be downloaded.

Navigating the handset does require you to know a few things. To access all the open or most recent apps you swipe up from the bottom to see your multitasking tray. To go back you tap

Meizu has it’s own store, the AppCenter and Personalize which let you download lots of stuff including new skins for your phone. Sound good? The catch is it’s all in Chinese. Even if you don’t get any extra packs there are still a lot of personalization options built in, the UI displays Flyme icons but you can switch back to regular Google Icons. The settings menu is sleek, I like the little touches they’ve added, you can pull to the right to see a list rather than just icons, you can also pull the whole thing down and it will stay so that you can use one hand to navigate.

Meizu-Flyme.4.0-UI-6 Well crafted, modern looking icon design Meizu-Flyme.4.0-UI-5 Meizu-Flyme.4.0-UI-4 Meizu-Flyme.4.0-UI-2 Meizu-Flyme.4.0-UI-1

The m2 note comes pre-installed with the TouchPal keyboard, in addition to the default Google keyboard. One issue I’m having, on occasion it covers up the send row in Facebook Messenger so I have to bit back to access it. This doesn’t happen every time, but it made me switch back to the default Google keyboard. The good thing about Android, is that you can customize it any way you like.

Smart Touch is another way to navigate your handset, it’s a floating button which is customizable. Interactions can be swapped out but by default it’s set to click to go back, slide up will take you to the homescreen, a swipe down will bring down the notification bar. We like that it’s highly customizable, it’s opacity can even be tweaked.

Flyme loves swiping as a form of launching apps, from the lockscreen you can swipe right or left to launch specific apps of your choosing. It’s called “Slide Rightward in Lockscreen” which is just bad English, which is something you’ll occasionally come across in the menus.

One thing that took me a little getting used to using the home button as a navigation button. You don’t have home, back and menu navigation keys, the physical home button acts as a mini touchpad on top of being a real button. If you tap it, you’ll go back while physically pressing the button will bring to the home screen. To multitask and see the last apps that you had opened swipe up from the bottom of the display. Just swipe up on the app to up on an individual app to close them all grab one and swipe down.

It took me a while to get the hang of Flyme, admittedly the Meizu Fanboy’s were pretty unhappy with some of my complaints in previous reviews when I didn’t intuit how to get something done. And that’s the big problem with Flyme, once you get it, it seems simple, but as a Smartphone reviewer I had to look stuff up, I couldn’t just figure it out after a week of use. By the way, I’m not alone in this Daniil who does the German reviews and Stew who reviewed the M1 Note both missed some pretty basic UI tricks. So be warned there is a slight learning curve to this forked version of Android.

The other software issue that you’ll come across is that Google’s services and are incomplete and aren’t seamlessly integrated into the UI. As you can see in the video I had some issues with Google Games which produced an error that was just annoying, it didn’t actually stop me from playing any games. I also wasn’t able to add more than one Google account.

Meizu_M2_Note21

Sound – A disappointing Single Speaker

Audio is not a strong suit for the M2 Note. It’s not quite loud enough and when cranked up it is a little distorted. My morning routine is bringing my phone around listening to music. My new morning routine was pairing my phone with a speaker and bringing that along for the ride as well…good thing my apartment is small. The position of the speaker is on the bottom which when gaming I covered up frequently, not a huge fan over all of the sound quality. The audio quality on the call however wasn’t an issue, I could hear clearly the person on the other end and they could hear me.

Meizu M2 Note M464U MTK6753 Octa Core 1.3GHz Octa Core 2GB RAM 16GB/32GB ROM 5.5 inch (Grey, 16GB ROM)

Price: $165.00

(0 customer reviews)

11 used & new available from $165.00

Camera – 13MP that punches above it’s weight class

13MP is a decent amount of pixels for any Smartphone camera, the question that it comes down to for me is how good is their software algorithm for processing the data. In the case of Meizu, they’ve done a stand up job. You don’t expect such good quality photos from a device that’s this budget. The camera is always the thing that sets the flagships apart, but what we have here isn’t bad at all and something I would expect from a device that’s twice the price.

P50725-184221

The camera app has Auto, Manual, Beauty, Panorama, Lightfield, Scan and Slowmotion. The Auto mode features auto focus/auto exposure, but you can separate the focus and exposure points if you want more control. The Manual mode brings up onscreen controls for focus, ISO, exposure compensation and shutter speed which you can adjust via a slider. The Beauty mode lets you enhance eyes, slim faces, and smoothen and whiten skin. The Lightfield mode is similar to the Lumia Refocus tool. It lets you snap a photo and adjust the focus point later. This mode actually works really well, creating realistic depth-of-field and bokeh effects. The Scan tool is basically a QR code scanner.

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I did find that that when you tapped to select focus the exposure swing was huge. This is one of the things that I look for when testing Smartphone cameras. If it has a reasonable amount of brightening or darkening of the photo, this is good. If there is a huge difference and the photo goes black or totally over exposed, the camera will make you a little crazy trying to snap a decent pic. When you do get it, it does look good, but this is my biggest pet peeve when it comes to what I consider to be a good camera.

If you’re looking for HDR you’ll have to go into settings, where you’ll also find the timer, gridlines and a level gauge. On the viewfinder, you’ll also see a filter icon, which brings up a range of live filters you can apply.

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The Meizu M2 note has one of the better cameras we’ve seen on any budget Smartphone. The photos are sharp with natural color. It focuses decently fast and when things are well lit the level of detail you can find in the photos is excellent. When it comes to low light bar shots, don’t expect your fast moving friends to be in focus, but the photos will be usable. The HDR mode was ok, it didn’t pack the same punch as most flagship devices would. It essentially just sharpened the photo and saturated things noticable…I liked it as a filter. The dual-tone LED flash wasn’t great either, I found it hit or miss on if it did a good job. Generally I don’t use the flash so this isn’t a real deal breaker for me. However, I don’t usually bust out the flash opting for HDR, but since that’s not top notch it could eventually be an issue. The front facing camera is a little grainy in low light, but generally it takes an ok photo.

Meizu_M2_Note01

Performance – It’ll do.

The Meizu M2 note comes with a MediaTek MT6753 Octa-Core processor running at 1.3GHz with 2GB or RAM and a Mali T720-MP3 GPU . When looking at navigating through the device, it was smooth, fast and I never felt like I was waiting for the hadset to catch up..I also never saw it stutter o lag once. Gaming wasn’t a problem, the only issue with opening large games like Airborne 8 was that it took ages to open. Large apps take longer to open, compared to the M1 note it’s about 25% slower, but that’s a benchmark numbers game. Actually UI performance is the same. If you’re wondering how hot the phone got after 5 minutes of gameplay, it wasn’t warm at all, still rather cool apart from where the battery sits, but that was only warm not hot.

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Battery Life

In everyday usage the M2 Note will give you a full day of use and more, even if you are a heavy user. Average users will should expect around two days on a single charge. The slight down side, arguably, is that as a non-removable battery you cannot replace it as it eventually and inevitably degrades over time. That aside, Meizu has once again come up with a very strong contender when it comes to battery life.

A Great Smartphone with an Aggressive Price Point

Meizu_M2_Note05

It’s hard to believe that you can pick this phone up for $170, the build quality is solid, the display is stunning, the camera is decent and it has solid all day battery life. If you’re looking for a sub $200 handset you won’t be disappointed. When buying budget devices there are usually one or two pretty big compromises. The M2 Note has “would you rather” moment. Google Play services aren’t polished, but it’s not broken, just poorly executed. Large Apps take a while to open up. The GPS could be more accurate and the speaker quality is poor. All in all these are pretty minor flaws in the grand scheme of things.

Meizu M2 Note M464U MTK6753 Octa Core 1.3GHz Octa Core 2GB RAM 16GB/32GB ROM 5.5 inch (Grey, 16GB ROM)

Price: $165.00

(0 customer reviews)

11 used & new available from $165.00

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OnePlus 2 Sample Photos & Video http://www.mobilegeeks.com/oneplus-2-sample-photos-video/ http://www.mobilegeeks.com/oneplus-2-sample-photos-video/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 03:54:46 +0000 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/?p=28374

OnePlus is a bit of a legend in the smartphone scene with their Flagship killer the OnePlus One, so expectations are high with the launch of the OnePlus 2.  We were able to get our hands on at the San Fransisco and take a few sample photos and video using the 13MP shooter. The OnePlus […]

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OnePlus is a bit of a legend in the smartphone scene with their Flagship killer the OnePlus One, so expectations are high with the launch of the OnePlus 2.  We were able to get our hands on at the San Fransisco and take a few sample photos and video using the 13MP shooter.

The OnePlus 2 is a 5.5 inch Smartphone with a 1080p IPS LCD display running a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor with 4GB or RAM and 64GB of storage (32GB will be available a bit later on).  Living at the bleeding edge of technology they’ve dropped the MicroUSB port for charging and data transfer in favor of USB Type C which is quicker for charging and moving files around.

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The camera is 13MP and has a 6 lens set up, dual LED flash,an aperture of f2.0 and has a large 1.3um sensor for good low light shots.  The camera’s autofocus claims to have the ability to snap into place in 0.33milliseconds. Myriam Joire tests out the 4K video capabilities of the camera in the video below, she also takes to task the auto focus while filming to give you an idea of what it’s capable of.  The one thing we’re ecstatic that they didn’t leave out of this camera is OIS, which is optical image stabilization and something that we thing that all smartphone cameras should have!

What you have to keep in mind is that this isn’t final software and when it comes to photos, it’s often about the post processing capabilities. Just take the OnePlus, changing out the camera app to the Oppo camera made a huge difference in the camera quality when I tried it just last week.  So take this as a starting place and expect it to get better upon launch (and beyond).

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If you’re looking to pick up a OnePlus 2, you’re going to have to suffer through the Invitation process yet again. It’s not perfect, but it keeps the price of the phone down by allowing them to build what they can afford and not invest into carrying extra stock.

Here is a link to the OnePlus Website where you’ll be able to get invites and of course like with the OnePlus One launch you’ll be able to pick up a few here … if you’re lucky.

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BLU Win HD LTE Review: a solid and affordable Windows Phone smartphone http://www.mobilegeeks.com/article/blu-win-hd-lte-review-a-solid-and-affordable-windows-phone-smartphone/ http://www.mobilegeeks.com/article/blu-win-hd-lte-review-a-solid-and-affordable-windows-phone-smartphone/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 09:02:39 +0000 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/?post_type=article&p=28216

BLU Win HD LTE is a solid and affordable smartphone with Windows Phone 8.1 on board. It has a great screen, decent battery life, and it offers a great performance for the money. The only downside is the underperforming camera, but you just cannot have it all for 130 USD, right? BLU Win HD LTE: […]

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BLU Win HD LTE is a solid and affordable smartphone with Windows Phone 8.1 on board. It has a great screen, decent battery life, and it offers a great performance for the money. The only downside is the underperforming camera, but you just cannot have it all for 130 USD, right?

BLU Win HD LTE: Full specifications

  • LCD: 5″ HD IPS display
  • 720 x 1280 pixels (294 ppi)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 1.2Ghz Quad Core processor
  • Adreno 306 GPU, 400MHz
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB Storage
  • Dual Micro SIM
  • 8MP Rear Camera w/-LED
  • 2MP Front Camera
  • GSM / 3G / LTE
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 145 x 72 x 8.2 mm
  • 146 grams
  • Non-removable 2500 mAh Battery
  • Windows Phone 8.1, planned upgrade to Windows 10

BLU Win HD LTE: an affordable smartphone that does not feel cheap

Don’t worry if you have never heard of BLU Products, you are not alone. Although this relatively small manufacturer based in Miami, Florida, was established in 2009, but for years BLU’s products were primarily aimed at Latin American markets, where it is one of the most popular brands. Nowadays BLU’s smartphones are available on Amazon, Microsoft Store, and several others platforms, but still you can impress some of your friends who are not geeks with it – it is kinda exotic brand.

Blu_windows_smartphone1

From the front BLU’s smartphone resembles the HTC One

Probably the first thing I noticed about the BLU Win HD LTE was the build quality. Believe me, the Win HD LTE is quite a looker. Of course it’s not the Samsung Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6, the back is made of plastic, and high-grade aluminum is nowhere to be found. But compared to some older Galaxy models or some budget Lumia’s it looks nice, and feels great in hand. From the front, at the very first sign, the Win HD LTE might be even taken for the HTC One. Moreover, if you don’t like it in gray you can choose a yellow, and white version as well.

Blu_windows_smartphone3

The back cover is made of good quality plastic and it is removable

This is a budget smartphone, but BLU surprised me again when I took a look deeper into the box. Inside, beside things like a charger or bunch of papers, I found a phone case and a screen-protector. This is a great idea and I wish more manufacturers would do the same. Included headphones are terrible, though. The sound quality was so bad that it was painful to use them.

BLU Win HD LTE: a closer look

Similar to HTC One series, the BLU Win HD LTE has a speaker grill at the top. It is not made of aluminum, though. It’s just a piece of plastic imitating brushed aluminum, but it does a good job at doing that. There is also a 2 megapixel front facing camera along with sensors, that’s all.

Blu_windows_smartphone7

There is no secondary speaker at the bottom. No stereo, sorry. During calls the main speaker performed well. The sound was clear and loud enough to talk even on a crowded street. The same can be said about the microphone. No problems here, everyone I talked to hear me clearly.

Blu_windows_smartphone8

On the back an 8-megapixel camera with a flash can be found. As you can see, the camera is situated in a weird spot, on the corner, and at the beginning it’s a little hard to get used to it.

Blu_windows_smartphone5

BLU Win HD LTE’s camera is good only for Facebook and Instagram.

At the bottom there is a loudspeaker. The sound quality is fine for gaming or some short Youtube sessions and it’s loud enough to use it indoors. I have to be fair here, at this price point I couldn’t ask for anything better than this.

Blu_windows_smartphone4

The speaker is decent and loud enough

BLU Win HD LTE is a dual-sim smartphone, so under the removable cover two SIM card slots as well as Micro SD card slot can be found. The dual SIM support is great if you need it, so if you like it then it’s another reason to consider the Win HD LTE. Both cards have separate dialers, calling is simple and intuitive. Only one card can be selected for the data-connection at the same time.

Blu_windows_smartphone12

Two SIM card slots and the Micro SD card slot.

Opening the back cover also gives you access to the 2500 mAh non-removable battery. This is a mystery, though. It is written that the battery is built in, but it looks like it can be replaced. However, it is covered with a sticker and removing it will void warranty. So, for the typical user it is impossible to replace battery without sending the smartphone to the manufacturer.

Blu_windows_smartphone13

Battery looks like it is replaceable, but your warranty will be void if you remove the sticker

 BLU Win HD LTE: Smartphone with a beautiful screen and great performance

The BLU Win HD LTE packs a beautiful 5 inch 720 x 1280 IPS display with 294 ppi, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of integrated storage. It measures 145 x 72 x 8.2 mm and 146 grams.

The screen is great looking, everything is sharp, and colors are vivid. It is bright enough to use it even in direct sunlight. No Gorilla Glass here, so it’s a good idea to use the included screen protector. The only downside is that sometimes it can be too bright. When it’s dark it was significantly brighter than other smartphones I have. This can be corrected manually, for example for reading e-books at night.

Blu_windows_smartphone10

Screen is great, price considered

Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 with Adreno 306 offers 1.2GHz of Quad-Core processing power with a 64-bit architecture, which is more than enough for Windows Phone 8.1. Everything runs smoothly and without any noticeable lag. Apps start in milliseconds, menu can be browsed seamlessly, the same can be said about the camera which starts in about 1 second. When it comes to games I tried Subway Surfers, Asphalt 8, Lara Croft: Relic Run, and some others less demanding titles. All mentioned games worked fine. Overall I was positively surprised how well Snapdragon 410 with Adreno 306 deals with games.

 BLU Win HD LTE: decent battery life

Battery also does not disappoint, the 2500 mAh cell is good enough for a day of moderate to heavy use. Your mileage may very, but I have never ran of the juice before the evening. The only thing I wish for is a quick-charge option, it takes some time to fully charge the Win HD LTE with included 1A charger.

Blu_windows_smartphone11

BLU Win HD LTE: Disappointing camera

BLU Win HD LTE is good looking, it’s fast, and affordable. So, where is the catch? I left the biggest disappointment for the very end. In order to keep things “cheap” BLU had to make some cuts here and there, and probably that’s why camera is under-performing.

8-megapixel camera lunches extremely fast and there is no shutter lag between taking photos, but the entire experience is ruined by focusing problems, both with automatic and manual focus. As can be seen on the photos below, the camera sometimes is not able to focus properly. Moreover, trying to do so may take a lot of time.

WP_20150521_003 WP_20150521_002 WP_20150521_001

I am not sure whether or not this is a software-related problem, but I don’t think so. I’ve already got quite a few updates from BLU and still the same problem exist. Maybe Windows 10 will bring some changes, but this is something to be seen in the future.

The image quality also fails to impress. There is a lot of noise and artifacts on every photo. It’s not terrible, just below average. The bottom line is, if you plan to use your camera for Instagram and Facebook, then the Win HD LTE should be enough. If you want to take some photos from a trip to Hawaii, bring your compact with you. You will thank me later.

WP_20150521_010 WP_20150521_009 WP_20150521_006 WP_20150521_004 WP_20150519_012 WP_20150519_003

Software – No Surprises with Windows 8.1

The BLU Win HD LTE is just a pure Windows Phone 8.1 experience. BLU did not add anything to customize the system, and depending on your philosophy it may me something good or bad. Windows Phone 8.1 is mature enough and does not need any custom apps from manufacturers to work properly. Bare-bone system means there is no bloatware, more space for the users, and faster upgrades (BLU promised that this phone will get a Windows 10 upgrade) . All apps are just standard of Windows Phone 8.1. Skype, OneDrive, Office, Internet Explorer, Maps, and others, are all available out of the box. If you want more, then Windows Phone store offers many custom apps for camera, navigation or music.

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BLU Win HD LTE is just a pure Windows Phone experience

Conclusion: Probably the best entry-level Windows Mobile Phone

The BLU Win HD LTE is a handsome device with a beautiful screen, and a good battery life. It offers a great performance for a great price with dual SIM support and LTE on board. And you get all of this just for $225 on Amazon. It is probably impossible to find another Windows Mobile Phone with so many features and similar build quality at this price point. I would even call it the best entry-level Windows Mobile Phone, but…

This can be said only if you are able to turn the blind eye on the biggest problem, which is the camera. I understand that budget smartphones cannot offer the Samsung Galaxy S6’s picture quality but focusing issues are unacceptable to me. However, that’s the only bad thing I can say about the BLU Win HD LTE, the rest is just great and heavy to beat.

BLU WIN HD LTE 5.0 X150Q Factory Unlocked GSM 4G LTE Dual-SIM Windows Smartphone – Yellow

Price: $165.77

4.4 out of 5 stars (5 customer reviews)

2 used & new available from $165.77

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Top 20 OPPO R7 Features http://www.mobilegeeks.com/top-20-oppo-r7-features/ http://www.mobilegeeks.com/top-20-oppo-r7-features/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 08:30:43 +0000 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/?p=28204

The Oppo R7 is 5 inches with a 1080p AMOLED display sporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor running at 1.3Ghz it comes with 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. This is a Dual SIM smartphone which allows you to use the 2nd SIM card slot as a MicroSD card slot which is a great […]

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The Oppo R7 is 5 inches with a 1080p AMOLED display sporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor running at 1.3Ghz it comes with 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. This is a Dual SIM smartphone which allows you to use the 2nd SIM card slot as a MicroSD card slot which is a great use of space since this device is only 6.3mm thin and weighs in at 147grams.

OPPO-R7-Display

Now that we’ve got a basic overview of the R7 let’s dig into the features. We’re going to start with the 13MP shooter found on the back (we’re not going to touch the 8MP camera found on the front since a solid Selfie camera with Beautification is quickly becoming standard fare)

The camera on the OPPO R7 has some great features, but to find most of them you need to head into the camera shop (don’t worry, everything is free).

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1. Macro Mode. Taking close ups has become one of the top requirements for anyone taking food photos (which come on, let’s all admit it, has been you at some point). Super Macro zooms in on your subject while maintaining focus. The problem in the past has been that many smartphone’s can’t focus on objects that are too close to the lens or the phone casts a shadow because it’s in so close. This mode allows you to keep your distance while getting right in there. To make sure you’re getting the best shot, tap to focus and keep a steady hand, since it’s zooming it will respond to the slightly shake.

2. Timelapse. The iPhone created some serious hype around this feature but many Android smartphones have been rocking it for sometime. The OPPO R7 comes with it and it has some nice touches, it lets you know how many seconds of timelapse you have shot and so far I haven’t run into a time limit. I have some sample footage in my video at 0:57.

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3. Takes Picture in 0.1 seconds. For this test we went to Sushi Express a local cheap (but delicious) sushi chain in Taipei. We have some sample footage of the belt so you can see how fast it’s moving and even though the reflective plastic on top of the sushi is hard to photograph the R7 did a very decent job.

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4. Gif Maker. Who doesn’t love a good GIF? If you’re not sure what that is (or been living under a rock) it’s basically a photo that is showing a looping video. And now you can make your own!

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Double Exposure Frenchie from R&D No one to high five :( Single Exposure

5. Double Exposure. This feature is a little artsy, it let’s you take a photo of something and overlay it ontop of you your first photo. But once you get that you can take pictures of someone doing something to themselves it becomes a seriously good time. For the best results a white background works best. If you do have a lot of objects in the background make sure that you don’t move the camera, so you don’t shift the background causing too much of a blur.

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R&D – Burning Cane. Note the hand in motion trace effect

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Filament Bulb light trails

6. Slow Shutter. This lets you keep the lens open capturing light so you can capture light traces, the R7 has options from 1/4 second all the way to 16 seconds. I decided to stop by R&D Cocktail lab in Taipei to test out this feature with the Burning Cane which is a flaming cocktail. I also took the camera to the filament light bulbs to create this cool light trace photo. But if you’re ambitious you can also take it to a busy intersection and capture light traces of cars driving by.

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7. Colorful Nights. Taking nighttime shots often results in noise or graininess in the dark areas of the picture. This feature tones that down, lets more light in and keeps the blacks black.

8. Monitor and Control Data. If you’re not on a all you can eat Data plan controlling which applications can use your data is invaluable. If you head to a preinstalled app called Security and select Data and Internet Connection Control, you can control which apps can only use data when connected to Wifi and which you’ll let gobble up Mega Bytes on your Data Plan.

9. Eye Protection Display. Blue light can keep you up late, Apps like Flu.x have been turning down the blue hue and warming our display’s when the sun goes down for years. OPPO has built this in which should save on battery since they have OS control of the display.

10. Lengthy Screen Shots. If you’ve ever had to send a screen shot of an entire webpage you’ll know tat most of the time you’ll have to wait until you’re on a desktop to get that done. Now you can select an area of the screen to send, be it a small section or an entire webpage. Just hit the power button and volume up and you’ll be able to decide what you want to capture to send.

OPPO-R7-Kamera-mit-Hülle OPPO-R7-Rückseite Oppo R7 (11) Oppo R7 (6) Oppo R7 (8) Oppo R7 (3)

Off screen and On screen gestures are something that once you get the hang of really save you time navigating around your phone. To find them head to settings, Gestures and Motion and select between on screen and off screen to choose which you want to activate.

Off screen gestures work when the display is turned off, just draw predetermined picture on the screen and you’re off to the races.

11. Camera activation. To turn your camera on from the off screen just draw a O or a circle and that will launch your camera.

12. Double Tap to Wake Up. Moving from a phone that has this to one that doesn’t makes you realize just how great it is. Every app I’ve tried from the store just didn’t seem reliable, so i’m glad that OPPO has built it in.

13. Control Music. If you want to control your music while the device is off, no problem. Just draw an arrow forward to skip ahead or backward to go to the previous track.

OPPO R7 16GB 4G LTE (Unlocked) 5.0inch 13MP AMOLED Octa-Core ColorOS (Gold)

Price: $438.66

(0 customer reviews)

3 used & new available from $438.66

On screen gestures are from when your device is turned on, they help you get around much quicker.

14. One handed operation. If the notification bar is just out of reach all you have to do is drag your thumb from the corner of the display to the center, the display will shrink down to where ever you’ve pulled your thumb in from (yay lefties).

15. On Screen Camera activation. Take multiple fingers and pinch the display, the camera will immediately launch.

16. Screen Capture. Don’t reach for the power button and volume down, just take three fingers and drag them upwards to take a screen cap.

17. Volume Control. Take two fingers and drag them up or down. Never fumble for the volume rocker again!

18. Dual SIM – If you’ve spent any time traveling you’ll know how great this is. OPPO has excellent execution on this, you can use the 2nd SIM card tray as a expandable storage with a MicroSD card. You can also control which SIM you’re pulling data from, many other devices will only provide data from SIM card 1 forcing you to swap SIM position if you’re buying a SIM for it’s data plan.

OPPO-R7-Lieferumfang

19. VOOC or Fast Charge. Want your phone to go from 0 -75% in 30min? Who doesn’t?! Only catch is you’ll need to use their charger and cable. Makes sense since sending that much juice at once will need some special hardware.

20. USB OTG. If you’ve ever wanted to plug a USB into your phone to transfer things on, have no fear USB On The Go is here!

Bonus feature. If you’ve ever needed a hammer and didn’t have one handy, like the Oppo R5 you’ll be able to use it hammer in nails with out having to worry about it breaking your phone. (As along as you use the side and not the display!)

If that’s not enough OPPO R7 for you, we’ve got a playlist on YouTube with several comparison videos to other smartphones and the R7 Unboxing here.

If you’re keen on picking one up, you can find an unlocked version on Amazon below:

OPPO R7 16GB 4G LTE (Unlocked) 5.0inch 13MP AMOLED Octa-Core ColorOS (Gold)

Price: $438.66

(0 customer reviews)

3 used & new available from $438.66

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Flying the DJI Inspire 1 at Intel’s Drone Club in Santa Clara http://www.mobilegeeks.com/flying-the-dji-inspire-1-at-intels-drone-club-in-santa-clara/ http://www.mobilegeeks.com/flying-the-dji-inspire-1-at-intels-drone-club-in-santa-clara/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 10:30:43 +0000 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/?p=28154

On a recent trip to San Fransisco I got an invitation to meet up with Anil Naduri Director of Perceptual Products & Solutions who runs Intel’s Drone club I couldn’t say no! Intel’s drone club meets once a month so that employees can see what all the fuss is about.  If they’re like me they might […]

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On a recent trip to San Fransisco I got an invitation to meet up with Anil Naduri Director of Perceptual Products & Solutions who runs Intel’s Drone club I couldn’t say no! Intel’s drone club meets once a month so that employees can see what all the fuss is about.  If they’re like me they might have gotten a play around with a budget drone which doesn’t offer quite as cool of an experience as something like the DJI Inspire 1.

The Inspire 1 will cost you around $2800 but it comes with a lot of bells and whistles, it comes with carbon fiber arms lift out of sight, allowing for a full 360⁰ view. If you happen to see the blades in your video it’s because the stabilization is in action causing the body to tilt so the drone can either fly forward at breakneck speeds or simply stay in place to fight the wind. If you’re wondering what Santa Clara looks like from high up above I’ve got a short video here for your enjoyment!

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Sample Photo from the DJI Inspire 1

Unfortunately, Intel’s drone club isn’t about flying some of their prototype drones, there are two that are worth mentioning.  The first I saw at Intel’s Make it Wearable competition towards the end of last year.  Nixie is a wrist mounted quadcopter that will fly out with the flick or the wrist to capture life’s photos.  It’s running an Intel Edison board and can be seen having a demo flight towards the end of my hands on video from CES 2015 back in January.

The next video that’s worth checking out is a drone sporting 6 Intel RealSense 3D depth sensing cameras.  The drone is able to navigate on it’s own missing obstacles like the trees in the demo below.  Intel’s Real Sense technology does more than just know where you hands are to interact with you computers or when a drone is flying up into something.  It can also do face detection, read your emotions and even track where you’re looking.

Do you have some drone technology that you’d like us to look into? Have a favorite drone? Let us know in the comments below.

DJI T600 Inspire 1 Quadcopter with 4k Video Camera with Controller

Price: $2,750.00

3.9 out of 5 stars (96 customer reviews)

76 used & new available from $2,536.62

 

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Getting the Ford GT 2017 into Forza Motorsport 6 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/getting-the-ford-gt-2017-into-forza-motorsport-6/ http://www.mobilegeeks.com/getting-the-ford-gt-2017-into-forza-motorsport-6/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 07:55:40 +0000 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/?p=28133

True innovation happens when the lines blur between two industries. Forza Motorsport has been pushing the boundaries of online racing by creating a driving simulator that has peaked the interest of Ford and other car manufacturers. At E3 last month the Ford GT 2017 was unveiled during the launch of the popular XBox racing game […]

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True innovation happens when the lines blur between two industries. Forza Motorsport has been pushing the boundaries of online racing by creating a driving simulator that has peaked the interest of Ford and other car manufacturers. At E3 last month the Ford GT 2017 was unveiled during the launch of the popular XBox racing game Forza 6.  The level of collaboration between these two companies from different industries is unprecedented. We’re going to explore this relationship which has lead to so more than just a slick looking car in a video game.

We’re at an interesting inflection point, organizations are having a have a hard time breaking new ground at the pace they’ve maintained over the past few years. In order to keep moving forward in ways that aren’t just incremental, looking at where disciplines intersect offers a glimpse at real innovation. New methods or processes of creating are being developed and we’re starting to look at things we’ve seen a thousand times in a new ways. 

Ford & Forza Motorsport Changing the Way Cars Are Built 

Forza is more than just a video game, it is a racing simulator that is as close as it gets to driving in the real world.  Forza is so realistic that it recreates the exact suspension of a vehicle, how much flex it has, how it will react in different conditions.  They’ve gone as far as including real audio of the engine driving on wet surfaces, around buildings and through tunnels.  Forza even has Drivatars that use machine learning in their races.

Forza has had early access to cars in the past, but never have they been granted access this early.  The Ford GT 2017 is being developed simultaneously virtually for Forza & for production by Ford.  This is unprecedented in video game design as well as the car’s manufacturing process.

Forza won’t have the final specs of the car for over a year, but during this time the two companies can engaging in testing like we’ve never seen before.  Ford can be delivering information to Forza and their community, Ford can actually test out proposed changes and get real driving data back from test drivers. Millions of players will be driving on Le Mans driving 24 hours a day 7 days a week before the car even touches the track and the two companies are actively engaging one another. Mobile Geeks visited the Microsoft campus in Redmond to poke around and take a look at Forza 6 and after the press had their fun, the two teams braced themselves to work late into the night.

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It’s an exciting time to be involved because the car is in such active development” according to Dan Greenwalt Creative Director at Forza. We’ve got an interview with him below about Innovation as well as Garen Nicoghosian Designer of the Ford GT 2017.

Ford GT 2017 Innovating with Forza Motorsport 6 – Behind the Scenes

Looking at Forza 5 and the evolution to Forza 6, game play remained 1080p at 60fps, but on the same hardware they added in night time driving as well as wet conditions, while jumping from 16 cars to 24 cars on track. They made it look better, play better, sound better on the exact same hardware. This is the kind of incremental improvements that you expect to see, but when tackling big trend innovation industry trends things are in flux.

“How digital communities and machine learning started affecting the ways cars are designed is where we’re seeing a break out in innovation.”

“When I look 10 years back and 10 years forward, we’re a changing point. The way cars used to be made was by hand and they were delivered in a physical world. With video games they were made by hand and delivered in a digital world. Now they are being made digitally and delivered realistically, but they are also being made digitally to be delivered the same way. There is an interesting change up on how people are changing their approach to making cars. Which is leading to a new way of making cars which we’re seeing in the way that Forza is working with Ford.” said Greenwalt.

It Ford about 3 years to design a car which include the creation of a few clay models built to scale, but with the Ford GT 2017, they tried something new. They took a larger block of foam and cut it into a full size car which they could actually put on a chassis. They can do this in 1 day which was a big step in streamlining the processes saving time. This could actually be added into how Ford designs cars in the future.

Drivatars – The New Test Driver?

Before the game is even released Drivatars are testing out early prototypes of the Ford GT 2017. This begs the question of what is a test driver going to look like in the future. Could a test driver be 5Million people? Can test driving me done virtually before heading to the physical world? What makes this relationship interesting is that Forza can isolate different aspects in their simulations which yield very accurate results. Though the sheer amount of data Froza can test and collect, the relationship can go both ways and Forza has the potential to provide valuable feedback informing the design process a vehicle. This approach has never been taken in gaming and certainly not in car development.

Forza Motorsport 6 & the Evolution of Machine Learning in Drivatars

Drivatars are digital players that drive like humans, but not just any human, they can drive like specific human players. They imitate the details of how a player drivers, things like how they take a tight corner, or if they lock the front wheels braking, even how aggressively they hit the gas coming out of a corner. In Forza 5 & Horizons 2, Drivatars have been growing smarter through machine learning and in Forza 6 they are getting an upgrade. You’ll be able to customize how your Drivatar behaves. When you’re playing a computer you might drive more aggressively hitting other cars, but when you play humans you have better race course etiquette and you can choose to make them more professional or more casual. Racers can actually drive with more of your real-world friends, or get rid of friends entirely.

One of the more interesting chats I had during my trip to the Forza studio and that was about how they actually made the games. If you’re interested in learning how Forza puts cars into their games there are a few different ways. They can take a scan of a real world car and make a digital version or the car manufacture can send over a 3d version of the car. Whether it’s a real world car or a virtual one, they all start with the same body in white and get add ons from their. Forza has proprietary software that they use as well as a process that allows multiple artists to work on cars and allowed them to ramp up to 450 cars in Forza 6.

Forza Motorsport 6 – How they Add Cars to the Game

Another new feature that has been added to Forza 6 is night time driving as well as wet road conditions. We got to talk to a few different people at Forza around wet driving conditions. We’ll start with a brief overview of the physics behind driving in wet conditions as well getting the new sounds that go along with the new condition into the game.

Forza Motorsport 6 & Adding in Rain – Behind the Scenes

This September, Forza Motorsport 6 will hit the shelves and our download buttons for the Xbox One.

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Intel Compute Stick review http://www.mobilegeeks.com/intel-compute-stick-review/ http://www.mobilegeeks.com/intel-compute-stick-review/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 07:28:25 +0000 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/?p=27345

Much more than a TV dongle, a bit less than a full-fledged PC. Intel Compute Stick is kinda like a first iPhone – it’s a great piece of hardware that needs some improvements. The next generation might be the real game-changer for the PC market, but now it’s something aimed at a narrow group of […]

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Much more than a TV dongle, a bit less than a full-fledged PC. Intel Compute Stick is kinda like a first iPhone – it’s a great piece of hardware that needs some improvements. The next generation might be the real game-changer for the PC market, but now it’s something aimed at a narrow group of users.

Design and package contents

Intel Compute Stick comes in a simple blue box with Intel’s logo on it, nothing special here but overall design is consistent with other Intel’s products. Inside there is the stick, a power supply with replaceable power plugs, a microUSB cable, and an HDMI extender cable.

Most of the time when the Intel Compute Stick is connected it will be hidden behind a TV so design should not be a major issue. Nevertheless, Intel did a good job in the design phase. Plastics are solid and the big Intel’s logo reminds us that this is not a no name TV dongle with Android system on board. It’s just simply good looking. The device is also much bigger than a typical USB stick. It measures about 102x37x12mm (4.01×1.45×0.47 inches), so it’s a little bit chunky and might not fit behind every TV. That is why included HDMI extender cable comes in handy. With its help there is no problem with connecting the stick to the TV.

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On the other hand the stick is lightweight and travel friendly. You can fit it in your pocket and if you only have access to a mice/keyboard you can take it with you anywhere.

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Just a micro SD card slot and an air vent on the side

After taking a closer look I was surprised to see air vents on the front and on the sides of the device. They are necessary because Intel has decided to apply an active cooling system. Yes, there is actually a small fan inside to help deal with the heat. This small fan can be a little noisy sometimes. It was louder than my laptop, but from the distance when the device is connected to the TV the fan is inaudible.

Specs

There are two versions of Intel’s Compute Stick and both of them are equipped with a quad-core Atom Z3735F, integrated 802.11n WIFI and Bluetooth 4.0. Both have a single USB 2.0 port, a MicroSD slot and a MicroUSB port for connecting a power supply. The stick must be plugged in all the time. There is no battery inside, and HDMI port does not provide power.

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USB 2.0 and a MicroUSB port for connecting a power supply

First and cheaper version is a Linux version running Ubuntu with 1GB of RAM and just 8GB of eMMC storage. It may seem that 1GB of ram with 8GB of storage is not much, but this configuration should be good enough to run Linux smoothly. Moreover, memory can be expanded with a MicroSD card. According to Intel, the stick works with cards up to 128GB. Suggested retail price for this version is about 89$.

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HDMI is the only way to connect the stick to the TV

The version I had a chance to test packs the same quad-core Atom Z3735F, but with 2GB of RAM (DDR3/1333), and 32GB of eMMC storage. The biggest difference is not amount of RAM, though but the OS. It is running a full version of 32-bit Windows 8.1 and it will be upgradable to Windows 10 for free in the future. Suggested retail price in the US is 150$.

Let’s get started!

My Intel Compute Stick came with a preinstalled version of Microsoft Windows 8.1 with Bing and it was ready to use right out of the box. Users just need to connect it to the TV and to the power supply. That’s all. It takes just a few minutes before the Stick is ready to go.

intel-compute-stick-3

The stick has to be plugged in order to work

The only inconvenience comes at the very beginning – to connect Bluetooth mice and keyboard at least a standard mice is needed to setup Microsoft account and pair devices. Typing at this stage can be done with on-screen keyboard. Using standard peripherals is fine too. Although Intel Compute Stick has only one USB 2.0 port, a USB HUB can be used to connect additional devices. 4 Port USB Hub worked perfectly.

Performance

Let’s be honest, the stick powered by the Atom Z3735F (Bay Trail) with its 4 cores (basic frequency is 1.33 GHz, up to 1.83GHz), Intel HD Graphics running at 311MHZ and 2GB of RAM is not a speed demon. It’s much closer to the tablet performance than to the desktop PC. But it’s powerful enough for simple, everyday tasks. You are probably thinking “What do you mean by simple everyday tasks?” What I mean is browsing the Internet seamlessly, writing e-mails, watching YouTube in 1080p, watching movies, streaming, writing documents in Word/Excel, do some very simple image editing in Photoshop etc. Even with Compute Stick’s limited hardware all those things can be accomplished. Just remember, this is not a tool for heavy/professional use. It was never meant to be one, nor was it marketed as such. One of the problems from my perspective is limited amount of RAM. 2GB is just not enough for heavy browsing (I usually have over 20 tabs opened in Chrome) or multi-tasking. I need at least 4GB of RAM, your mileage may vary.

Screenshot (11)

Geekbench 3, Intel Compute Stick has nothing to be proud of

The way I feel about the Stick’s performance is subjective, that’s why some cold benchmark data should help get a better view of what, and how fast can be done. This is not a high-end laptop, so in order to check the processing power of the Stick I just used Geekbench 3. The results are as follows:

  • Single-Core Score : 770
  • Multi-Core Score:   2181

Those results are similar to performance of most tablets with Atom Bay Trail and Windows 8.1. Below some attached screenshots with additional data regarding the performance.

Screenshot (12) Screenshot (13) Screenshot (14)

One tip, the performance might be slightly improved by changing the performance settings in the Compute Stick’s BIOS. Balanced performance is set by default. It can be changed to low-power or performance. When the high performance option is set, the stick will no longer allow you to use a 4-port USB HUB without an external power supply.

After testing I see the Intel Compute Stick not only as dongle which will turn your TV into a multimedia center. Thanks to the Windows 8.1 this device can be used as an office tool everywhere where a lot of power is not necessary.

Gaming

I decided to look at Intel Compute Stick from a little different perspective, from a perspective of a hardcore gamer. I know it’s not a powerful device and it wasn’t designed for gaming. Obviously it won’t run GTA V or even some less demanding modern games. But what’s the limit? What actually can be played on it?

Let’s start with some benchmarks first. I limited the test to 3DMark demo version. First, I tried Ice Storm Unlimited. This test is meant for lower end tablets and smartphones.

Screenshot (1)

3DMark demo version. Ice Storm Unlimited

The overall result was 10248 points, but the graphic score was only 9722 points. Both results (especially the graphics score) were lower than results of similar equipped tablets with Intel Atom. For quick comparison – ASUS MeMO 7 with Atom Z3745 obtained a score of 13644, with 12824 points for graphics.

Next I tried Cloud Gate Performance to compare the stick to other PCs. This time the score was only 945 points, which places the stick far behind “typical” office PC.

Screenshot (2)

Cloud Gate Performance

From the benchmarks it seems like Intel Compute Stick is slower than many smartphones and is able to run only some old flash games. It would not be fair to limit the tests just to few tables and points, though. The stick asked for some action!

The only way to check if Intel Compute Stick is suitable for games was to actually run some games on it. It was very hard to choose a proper set of games for this review, not only because of their number, but also because most of them either run perfectly or were just unplayable. In the end I picked up some modern and retro games to get the full picture of Compute Stick’s capabilities:

  • Sim City 2000
  • Syndicate
  • Ultima VIII
  • Leisure Suit Larry – Reloaded
  • Minecraft
  • Battlefield Bad Company 2
  • Counter Strike: Source
  • Half Life 2
  • Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced Edition
  • Dota 2
  • Asphalt 8: Airborne

I started with Sim City 2000, Syndicate and Ultima VIII. These classics were available for free on Origin and I already had them on my account. I must say that they worked perfectly. Everything was fast and smooth, which is not surprising as these games are over 20 years old now. They have stood the test of time and it was good to see them again on a big screen. If you are into retro games, then the stick will be more than enough to play them.

DOSBox 2015-05-12 01-56-14-09 DOSBox 2015-05-12 01-56-55-05

On my GOG account I have the Leisure Suit Larry – Reloaded, so I gave it a try. No surprises here, game worked just fine, and that’s about it. Point and click game does not require a FPS check.

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Leisure Suit Larry – Reloaded

After these retro games I assume that every similar title will work just as well, as long as it can be played on Windows 8.1. The possibilities are endless. Nowadays thanks to the services like GOG, Origin or Steam players have access to thousands of retro games, and most of them will work on Intel Compute Stick.

Then I looked for something more recent and more popular. In the end I choose Minecraft, mainly because this game is available both on smartphones and computers so I could compare the stick’s performance to other hardware. For the sake of this review I have installed a Windows demo version. I also had access to the mobile version. I started the game on default settings and  I got only about 15 fps. Mining around at this stage wasn’t a big problem, it was still playable, but later in the game when more is happening on the screen 15 FPS will not be enough.

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Minecraft, default settings

In order to get a more pleasant experience I had to reduce render distance to 2 chunks. After that the game run mostly at 30 FPS with occasional drops when a lot was happening on the screen. In short, Minecraft was fully playable. I would not say it was as nice as on full-fledged PC, or even on a smartphone, and the stick should not be your main choice for playing Minecraft, but it can serve as an occasional platform for mining. For example during travel or when someone else is using your main PC.

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Encouraged by the fact that I was able to play Minecraft on a miniature PC I looked for something more demanding. I choose Battlefield Bad Company 2. It’s a game from 2010 so I had a little bit of hope that it will work. Sadly, it was a disaster.

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720p with low setting, just 10 fps

I set the resolution to 1280×720, other settings to low and I only tried a single player mode. It was just unplayable, between 4-10 frames per second. Intel Compute Stick is not good enough for Battlefield Bad Company 2. Period.

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1080p with low settings

Next one on my list was Counter Strike: Source and then Half Life 2, both running on a Source game engine. These are old games, but both are still good and fun to play.

Despite the fact that a newer version of Counter Strike is on the market for a couple of years now, there are people still playing CS:S. At least here in Asia I was always able to find some good servers and had a lot of fun.

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720p with low settings

Again, in order to make it playable I had to reduce graphics quality to the lowest possible and reduce the resolution. Playing in 1080p even on the lowest settings was impossible. 720p was fine, thought.

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720p with low settings

As you can see from the screenshots framerate varied between 30 and 50 fps, with serious drops when I was surrounded by smoke. Overall, CS:S was fully playable. To be fair I must say that Counter Strike: Source is still a good looking game, but not on the lowest settings. Game looked ugly and there is no other way around it. If you want to play it on miniature PC, then you have to turn a blind eye.

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720p with low settings

Then came the time for Half Life 2, which also runs on the Source game engine. Basically performance was similar to CS:S. In 1080p and everything on low I got around 15 fps, which of course is too less for a shooter. But after I set the resolution to 720p, everything was smooth enough to play without problems. Of course expect some drop-downs during action-heavy scenes.

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1080p with low settings

HL2 still holds up, the story and gameplay are as great as they were before, so if you don’t mind the looks and reduced resolution, then the stick can be used for playing it without any doubt.

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720p with low settings

The game I wanted to try the most was Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced Edition. This epic title with expansion packs provides hundreds of hours of gameplay, and it looks great after retouching. So, if the stick could run it, then it would be one of the best possible games to play on it.

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Baldurs Gate 2

After some time with BG2 I have mixed feelings. Baldur’s Gate 2: Enhanced Edition looked gorgeous on a big TV, everything worked great, but framerate was unstable. Usually I had about 30-20 fps, during fights it dropped below 20 fps. The good news is that in this case it doesn’t really matter. BG2 is a slow-pacing game and the one with an active-pause. It does not require constant 30 fps to play it comfortable. Yes, you can run BG2 on the stick, but again is not as good as on a full-fledged PC.

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Baldur’s Gate 2 – when a lot is happening on the screen the framerate goes down

Then I tried Dota 2. Released in 2013 is one of the most popular games on Steam and the first one on that platform to have over one million concurrent players. That means a lot when it comes to its popularity. I set it to 720p right away, turned off all graphics details that I possibly could, and set screen render quality to about 50%.

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Dota 2 with all details set to low. It doesn’t look good but it’s playable

Results? I know I sound repetitive – as you can see from the screenshots it was visually unpleasant but still playable. But the gameplay is still there. Most of the time game run above 20 fps which is good enough I think. If you want to enjoy Dota 2 in your living room, then Intel Compute Stick is good enough for some quick sessions.

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Dota 2, 720p

Last but not least I checked Asphalt 8: Airborne from the Windows Store. It was a bit too much for the stick and in this case there is no way to adjust graphics settings and make it work. Game was running slow, below comfortable level. That’s all I can say about it.

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Asphalt 8

The good news is that Windows Store if full of casual games which will run on Intel Compute Stick perfectly. The stick is definitely something that will not only play movies or stream video, but also will provide some casual fun for your kids in the living room.

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Asphalt 8, looks good but framerate was too low

Is the Intel Compute Stick a good piece of hardware for a gamer? I cannot answer this question clearly. Most of the games I tested were playable, but the experience was on the lower end. Paradoxically if you are a hardcore gamer who is into retro games, you can make use of the Intel Computer Stick, even as your main gaming platform. GOG and similar services offer hundreds of great games. They are cheap, much better than casual games on Android and they will work on the stick just fine.

On the other hand, games like Asphalt 8 and Battlefield Bad Company 2 were too much for the stick to handle. You can connect the stick to your LCD monitor or TV and use for gaming, and as long as you know the limitations of it you will surely find something for yourself. Just don’t expect it to be a full-time gaming platform.

So, should you buy it?

It’s very hard to answer this question. The main problem is – do you really need something like Intel Compute Stick? It’s a real PC, not a powerful one, but still it is one. Comparing it to TV Android dongles or even AMAZON Fire TV is just inappropriate. It has a full version of Windows 8.1 and that itself puts it far above anything with Android, the OS which should have stayed on the smartphones forever. And if you don’t like Windows, then you can pick up the Linux version which is even cheaper and should give you a similar experience.

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Intel Compute Stick is a handsome device

Intel Compute Stick will not only make your TV smart, it will turn it into a real PC experience, with all the benefits. You can freely use a full version of your favorite browser, you can stream videos and games, and you can even edit your Excel files, prepare a PowerPoint presentation or edit photos, if you really want to. Just don’t expect it to perform as well as your full-fledged PC or laptop. If you are thinking about making your TV really “smart” then there is no better way than Intel Compute Stick. If you just want to have access to some movie streaming services, then there are better and cheaper ways to do it.

With the compute stick Intel is trying something new and only time will tell how market will react to this idea. It’s the best “dongle” on the market but I am not convinced yet. I wish it had more power and more RAM for more professional use. Hopefully this is something we would find in the next generation.

 

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If Wearables are a Bubble, Where Will Innovation Come From? http://www.mobilegeeks.com/if-wearables-are-a-bubble-where-will-innovation-come-from/ http://www.mobilegeeks.com/if-wearables-are-a-bubble-where-will-innovation-come-from/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 23:08:02 +0000 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/?p=28089

Controversy around the FitBit IPO is unsurprising. For those of us covering mobile technology, it’s clear that Wearables are being over hyped, use cases are still be identified and models validated. Fitbit however, is perfectly positioned to have their stock price initially trade at double their asking price, simply because they have a validated use […]

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Controversy around the FitBit IPO is unsurprising. For those of us covering mobile technology, it’s clear that Wearables are being over hyped, use cases are still be identified and models validated. Fitbit however, is perfectly positioned to have their stock price initially trade at double their asking price, simply because they have a validated use case.

Telecom’s wrote a great article “Fitbit IPO pop suggests speculative bubble around wearables and IoT” which goes over what the current ecosystem looks like as well as what’s happened to date with the FitBit IPO. (Spoiler, there are indications that the bubble isn’t just around Wearables).

So if adding sensors to your body and creating useful data for users around Health, Personal Awareness, increased productivity due to personal positioning or BioMedical are all bubble talk, then where else are we going to draw innovation from?

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Augmented Reality (AR) & Virtual Reality (VR) have to be considered Wearables, so they’re in the bubble…but honestly, my enthusiasm around them can be likened to someone who drank some cult-ish koolaid. This is the year of Altered Reality!  AR like the Microsoft HoloLens and VR with the HTC Vive (which is literally the HoloDesk from Star Trek) have set the stage for this vein of Wearables to gain ground. But, like I said, this is still technically a Wearable, and even though I’m personally hot on it, I am lumping it into the bubble.  So let’s keep looking.

Automotive is poised to do some interesting things. The thought of my Super Computer Car docking into my Super Computer House and doing Super Computer things with each other is coming. Right now we’re dealing with an industry that traditionally takes 7 years to turn out of product coming together with mobile development which has 6 month turn around times.  I judged a Mercedes Benz Hackathon over the weekend and did up an article that gives you a snapshot of what it looks like now for Automotive development.  We’re at the start and we’re going to see some interesting things.  Precision tooling and billions in engineering still hasn’t lead to a car that is smart. Telsa is the best example: a car that gets updates coupled with an alternative customer business relationship, since they’re maintaining a relationship by owning the charging stations. Telsa is getting into selling power. What automotive maker sells gas?

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The Car peaks my interest for another reason. I’m based in Taipei and spend a lot of time looking at Asia. China is all over the Autonomous car: Baidu (the Google of China) is working with BMW and Mercedes Benz.  Not surprising, and one might even think their just playing catch up, until you figure out that the Chinese government is trending pro-autonomous car.  Not many governments have the bandwidth to just  decide that cities or regions can have infrastructure. Imagine highways that have extra sensors or lanes just for autonomous vehicles. The potential for large scale immediate roll out feels salient in the conversations I’ve had.

This leads me to my next point, IoT and smart cities. Huge potential, but also experiencing a lot of hype.  It’s clear we can draw innovation from those emerging categories, but I’m going to acknowledge that they are firmly in buzzword territory. So I’m knocking those off the list since we aren’t reaching for any low hanging fruit in this article.

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For me if I’m going to identify where the real areas of innovation are happening, I’m looking broadly at where traditional industry blurs lines. We’re at an interesting inflection point, organizations are going to have a hard time breaking new ground at the pace they’ve maintained for the past few years. Where the disciplines crossover and intersect is where we’re seeing real innovation. If you’re looking for examples, it is actually most easily brought to light with the Internet of Things.

We’ve got a long way to go before big players can truly accept open innovation and allow sharing between industries.  Big players like Samsung, P&G, Dupont have their fingers in enough pies that they can actually blur lines between industries.  As much as I hated the Galaxy S5 & the S6 seems like an iPhone clone (yeah…I said it), Samsung makes cars, washing machines and they even have their own clothing line. Did you know that Samsung actually sponsors Koreans to go to Italy to get degrees in fashion and design? They’ve been doing it for years. Big Business suddenly has potential, but the little guy is quicker and more nimble.

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The other area that I’m keen on is the future of the human computer interface. This is more than Wearables like AR & VR, it’s about re-imaging how we interact with our devices. We’ve been using the keyboard for 300 years. We added a mouse and a trackpad, which was a big step, but the fundamental form factor hasn’t changed. Taking a look at the laptop we’ve just started adding depth sensing camera’s like the Intel Real Sense, which lets you unlock your computer with your face (and so much more like gestures) or Leap Motion which just lets you add gestures.  But looking at the emerging field there aren’t many universally accepted gestures for interacting with your devices.  It’s coming but we’ve got a long way to go and companies like Thalmic Labs or Nymi (Go Canada!) are at the bleeding edge of what that could look like.

I do get excited about Wearables and think that they’ve created this hyped up bubble for a reason. Admittedly, new ways of interacting with data is exciting. But as much as a nerd as I can be, I’m still waiting for a Smartwatch for Women that doesn’t make me look like I’m wearing my Boyfriends watch. (I did give the Apple watch a try…but it turns out I was wearing it wrong). This doesn’t mean that placing sensors on your body isn’t going to change the way to interact with our machines, it just means we haven’t nailed the usecase and form factor yet.

Which brings us back to where we started with the FitBit IPO. Clearly it’s not worth that much. But honestly, what else are people going to invest in that signifies the potential of a segment that has yet to figure it out?

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Taiwan’s East Coast – Tale of Road Warrior Sascha Pallenberg http://www.mobilegeeks.com/taiwans-east-coast-tale-road-warrior-sascha-pallenberg/ http://www.mobilegeeks.com/taiwans-east-coast-tale-road-warrior-sascha-pallenberg/#comments Wed, 17 Jun 2015 00:00:13 +0000 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/?p=20707

As a German, driving is pretty close to my heart. I love the feeling of release found on the open road. I’ll admit I was pretty revved up about the prospect of cruising down Taiwan’s East coast highway with its dramatic scenery, complete with crashing waves to the left and scraggy cliff faces on the […]

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As a German, driving is pretty close to my heart. I love the feeling of release found on the open road. I’ll admit I was pretty revved up about the prospect of cruising down Taiwan’s East coast highway with its dramatic scenery, complete with crashing waves to the left and scraggy cliff faces on the right.

As you guys know recently I’ve been having lots of fun driving the Audi RS6 official safety car on the way to LeMans and so of course my brand of choice for the twisty journey ahead was pretty instinctive. The only hard decision was which model. In the end I went for the Q5 which I knew would be able to handle steep mountainous roads and be roomy enough for our crew of five, plus equipment.

Driving in Taiwan’s cities is totally different from the orderliness of German roads. Pedestrians and cars share crosswalks simultaneously, the common courtesies of the road are entirely different, plus there are scooters and motorbikes in their hundreds weaving through the lanes on the main roads I was navigating at rush hour. However with a bit of nerve and a lot of swearing we soon made our way onto the relative bliss of the freeway. Although the speed limits didn’t allow me to push the Q5 to its max, as I expected it was smooth sailing down Freeway 5 and through Asia’s longest tunnel – the fourth largest in the world btw – the 12.9 km Xueshan Suidao, known locally as the Suao Tunnel.

Suao Tunnel Highway

Photo Credit – Taiwan Government

This tunnel is an engineering feet in its own right. It took 15 years for them to build the tunnel as mid-construction the workers hit on an unexpected bed of porous rock which was holding water from a nearby ancient aquifer. The engineers had to rethink everything, but they persevered and this major short-cut opened up around 8 years ago. The main advantage is that you can now get between east Taipei and the coast in around 30 minutes, traffic permitting. It’s best to avoid rush hours and weekends where possible (especially Sunday evening around 5-8 and Fridays 6-9 pm).

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The Audi Q5 really came into its own when we reached the glorious coast hugging Highway 9. Taiwan is essentially a ridge of mountains with large flatlands on the opposite west coast but here on the east coast you’re dealing with some pretty steep mountain roads. Audi pretty much invented the All-Wheel drive and back in Germany its Quattro system is known as the grandpa of all Quattro platforms. The performance and grip on potentially slippery roads and down the less smooth side tracks plus the amazing maneuverability combined to give a powerful feeling of control as you barrel along. The engine comes in a few different varieties of 2.0 TFSI, the more powerful of which gets the a seven-speed incarnation of S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox, as do the 3.2-litre petrol V6 and the larger of the two diesels, the 3.0-litre V6. The extra oomph along side precision steering was responsive and precise – especially important given that Highway 9 is pretty windy with some sheer drops down to the ocean.

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We’re talking a compact luxury SUV experience here, and we had 5 people and all our gear and kit to fit in– a bit of a push despite the nearly 60 cubic meters of the boot. Thankfully Stew turned out to be a packing genie and devised a way to fit everything in. The interior is well designed with plenty of legroom even in the back seats – pretty important on a road trip as after all not all of our crew are as short as Nicole.

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We were getting pretty hungry by now so we pulled over for a snack. Taiwan is famed for its food and especially snacks. Being German I know a thing or two about sausages so the sausage stand was no brainer. The pork sausage on a stick was Taiwan-style fatty combined with five or six Southeast Asian spices, barbecued right in front of you and slathered in a homemade slightly chunky garlicky sauce. It was absolutely delicious, trust me, Taiwan knows how to do sausages.

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Our whole trip was filled with fantastic food – fresh seafood, melt in the mouth sashimi plucked from the sea a couple of hours before and pineapple that that was so sweet and juicy that I felt like I’d never really eaten a pineapple before that point. But the sausage stole my heart.

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Being in Asia of course it’s a bit of a tradition to take a snapshot of your food before you dive in and I was glad to have my Nokia Luma 930 to hand so I could wallow in the sharp definition of the 20MP Pureview camera shots, you might not be able to taste my food but these shots are enough to make anyone’s mouth water. I went for the Lumia 930 for my mobile device for this trip. The Nokia Lumia 930 smartphone with 5.00-inch 1080×1920 display powered by 2.2GHz processor alongside 2GB RAM and 20-megapixel rear camera.

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Another highlight was the smooth trip on the jungle-y road down to the beach at Neishuan Huting. The great suspension on the Q5 really came into play here and the All-wheel drive made the handling of the rough road a cinch. We had great fun sticking the Go Pro out of the sunroof to get some amazing on the go driving shots too (thanks Nicole!). Neishaun Huting is a great secret beach with fantastic pacific views.  So it seemed fitting that we finished off the evening playing Taiwan’s local favourite game Big 2 on the beach with some stunning cards that I picked up from Kickstarter. The Playing Arts cards each feature a unique piece of local art from around the world on the face of each card. It’s great to see the thought which has gone into the design of these. I love supporting Kickstarter projects and this one was definitely one of my favourites. They’d make a pretty neat present to as well as adding a splash of culture into our sundowner games. I don’t want to brag about who won, but it wasn’t Stew or I who had to buy the second round of drinks that evening.

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Neishuan Huting Beach

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I wish that I could say that we spent all our downtime playing cards and swimming in the pacific, sadly though there’s no rest for the tech blogger and come the evenings I needed to get some work done. There’s nothing nicer than sitting out on a deck with a breeze in your hair as you write up the latest news though, so I was glad that I’d gone for the Nokia Lumia 2520. The fantastic battery life meant I never had to worry about finding a power outlet. I was getting 13 plus hours for browsing without the dock and a strong 16 plus hours when docked. I was a little bit worried about the keyboard as it’s one those flexible affairs that turns into the sleeve, but it turned out to be pretty much perfect for me. The only slight drawback was the small left and right shift keys. The teeny trackpad took a bit of getting used to, especially the right click mouse button but once I’d got the hang of it it was smooth sailing.It ran pretty niftily on the Snapdragon 800 and was easy to handle weighing just 615 grams and being just 8.9mm thick. All-in-all I found it to be a great work-travel companion device with its 2GB of RAM, especially given the speed of Taiwan’s fantastic new 4G network.

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I wish I could spend all of my work time sitting on a different Taiwanese beach or mountainside retreat. This trip really made me appreciate the incredible beauty of this island – especially once we hit Taidong’s lush unspoiled coastline. It’s easy to forget all that Taiwan has to offer outside of the excitement of Taipei. It’s not for nothing that Taiwan is being featured more and more heavily on bucket lists of places to travel to. Even though you can feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere the great connectivity across the island means you really can work as you go. I found myself wishing I had more time to spend travelling around my adopted homeland and less jetting off to conferences abroad. And if I were to do it all again I’d definitely go with the Q5 again, the roads really are a pleasure to take on in this kind of vehicle. The trains may be fast and slick, but I’ll stick with getting behind the wheel and pulling over for pineapple and sausages on a whim. You guys should really get over here – You don’t know what you’re missing.

If you’d like to see everything we’ve written about our trip down the East Coast of Taiwan, here is a link to our Out of the Box Tech and Travel Section.

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River Rafting to Hot Air Balloons – Nicole Takes on Taiwan’s East Coast http://www.mobilegeeks.com/river-rafting-hot-air-balloons-nicole-takes-taiwans-east-coast/ http://www.mobilegeeks.com/river-rafting-hot-air-balloons-nicole-takes-taiwans-east-coast/#comments Tue, 16 Jun 2015 23:55:32 +0000 http://www.mobilegeeks.com/?p=20712

I consider myself to be a digital nomad, the conference circuit and professional gadget hunting has me on the road a minimum of 5 months a year. So of all the places I could call home, that must make Taiwan a pretty interesting place. What I have always loved about it, is that it’s not […]

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I consider myself to be a digital nomad, the conference circuit and professional gadget hunting has me on the road a minimum of 5 months a year. So of all the places I could call home, that must make Taiwan a pretty interesting place. What I have always loved about it, is that it’s not an obvious choice, in a way that keeps the visitors interesting and the beaches almost private. In the time that I do spend here, Taipei has enough nightlife to keep my dance card full and the island is small enough that nowhere is actually an impossible road trip.

As a Canadian I’m pretty used to road trips, we do have a lot of land to drive over and a 3 hour drive to the cottage is something I’d do without thinking twice. I was a little hesitant at first about the Audi Q5, I wasn’t sure if it would be big enough for 5 people (Sascha, Stew, Hallie our videographer extraordinaire and Delia our producer and maintainer of the schedule) and all of our gear. But it seemed to work out thanks to Stew who apparently enjoys a good game of tetris more than most. With the three ladies sitting comfortably in the back and the men navigating our way down Taiwan’s curvaceous roads.

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On this journey I came armed with playlists galore on Soundcloud, which I’d luckily already listened to so they were cached on my LG G3. I selected this 5.5 Android handset out of the dozens we had at the office because of it’s camera. The 13MP shooter comes with a laser auto focus, an optical image stabilizer and a dual LED Flash. The display is Quad HD or 1440 x 2560 with a pixel density of 534. The very high resolution display means it is going to eat more battery, but the upside is that when I’m showing off the pictures they really do look stunning. Not wanting to wait on my phone for anything the G3 comes with a powerful Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM 16GB of onboard storage and a MicroSD card slot that can accommodate up to 128GB. The ability to expand my phones storage came in handy half way through the trip when I ran out of space from snapping too many shots. Connectivity wise we’ve got LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA which will make it easy to share my memories.

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LG G3

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Check Out the LG G3 Reivew Here

If there is one thing that you should know about me and Smartphones, is that I am a little bit of a Sony Fan Girl, I’ve loved all of my Xperia’s and one of the reasons is that it’s waterproof. This came in quite handy when we all needed a more exhilarating experience than just lazing at the beach. We wandered off the coastal road in land a bit to the East Rift Valley River which is littered with giant limestone boulders and white water rafting.

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Taiwan is great for water rafting, in the rainy season (June to October) there are significant amounts of rain and the mountains many watersheds feed the rivers. In general I’ve always had the impression that the Taiwanese are little over cautious, no swimming during ghost month..ok maybe that’s not caution, that’s superstition. Regardless, I wasn’t prepared for caution being thrown completely to the wind in an activity that does have moments where caution is appropriate. It quickly became apparent that the dozens of safety boats accompanying us down the river had their hands full speeding up and down the waterways. During some of the more dangerous parts of the rapids, splashing water at near by boats was the primary activity, not attempting to steer the boat away from rocks. As danger filled as the activity seemed at times, clearly everyone knew better and bobbing through the rapids with a life jacket (many of them freaking out that they couldn’t swim) seems to be a big part of the fun.

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Sony Xperia Z2 – Waterproof Smartphone at Changkai Shek Memorial Hall Taipei City

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Being a tech blogger definitely has its advantages, it was really lucky that we had a GoPro and the Sony Xperia Z2 with us. By the end of the 4 hours down the river, our guides began to seek out cool shots for us to get. We stopped by a small waterfall and pool where we got to muck around for a bit and he even caught a tiny fish to show off a bit. Only having to worry about not dropping my phone in the rapids is a much better feeling than worrying about ruining my phone and having to get a new one.

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Photo Credit – Spencer Huang Photography

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Speed boats raced around during the most dangerous parts of the rapids making sure the boats never actually got into any serious trouble. At some point all phones are going to come with a waterproof coating, but for now you’re limited to just a few, the Xperia line from Sony being my favorite and Samsung’s S5 is also water ready.

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Taking a dip wasn’t the only type of extreme sport that we took part in on our road trip, we also went to the Hot Air balloon festival in Taitung. Ok, so riding 350 feet in the air isn’t really an extreme sport, but you’ll have to tell that to Sascha who has a pretty big fear of heights and didn’t come along for the ride. We get up at 230am to make sure that we were first in line and make sure that we could set up to catch the first rays of light which started peaking just before 5am. When the video is all said and done, you realize just how much time goes into getting just a few seconds. But hey, not complaining, it was totally worth it!

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Hallie our Videographer Balloons!! As the balloons rose so did the sun

The Taiwan International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta kicks off on towards the end of May and goes until August. Hundreds of thousands end up passing through the picturesque Luye Gaotai. The 2014 will end up seeing a total of 55 pilots from 12 countries: Thailand, Belgium, Brazil, the United States, England, Germany, Slovak, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Spain, Vietnam and Taiwan. The Fiesta also claims to be the world’s longest hot air balloon festival.

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Since Sascha didn’t come up in the balloon with me, I was left on my own. I decided to take his Lumia 930 up in the air with me alongside an Audio Technica microphone that is especially designed for smartphones. I figured, a hot air balloon is pretty noisy, so this would be the perfect place to test it out. The ATR3350iS omnidirectional condenser lavalier mic which has a dual-mono 1/8-inch output plug and records on both the left and right channels.

Having great audio really makes a huge difference in the overall quality of your home videos. Having a machine that won’t keep you waiting is a necessity for anyone looking to engage in some movie making on their notebook. If you’re just looking at making home videos, Stew’s Yoga 2 Pro will be enough, considering it comes with Intel’s Quick Sync technology. Consumer video editing software like Cyberlink PowerDirector are feature packed to help you create professional looking videos. Think of Quick Sync as a graphics card for your laptop that won’t any extra battery life. I’ve exported a 5 minute full HD video in half real time.

Taking video more seriously than your average Joe, I edit the majority of our videos on Mobile Geeks which means that I’m actually in the market for a multimedia machine. My weapon of choice to keep productive on the road is the ASUS Zenbook Infinity UX301. It also comes with on board graphics from Intel, but this one comes with the ability to accelerate professional graphics programs like Adobe’s professional multimedia suite.
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The ASUS Zenbook Infinity comes with a gorilla glass lid and a stunning spun metal finish. This Ultrabook is high end class in a compact mobile package. At 15.5mm thin and weighing in at 1.4kg it comes with an Intel Core i7-4558U at 2.8 GHz 8GB of DDR3 RAM and a 13.3 inch high resolution display at 2560×1440. Connectivity wise it comes with 2 USB 3.0, 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort, Audio Connections and a 4 in 1 Card Reader. Deserving of a special mention are the speakers, they are Bang and Olufsen Ice speakers, since when I’m not working, I do enjoy watching the odd movie and it’s nice to have great audio when you need it.

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Griffith Park Backpack - Red Excellent Top Pocket Larger Version - Interior Shot

All of my gear fit nicely into my Case Logic backpack (review here), which is being modelled by, JD aka Just Dog aka John Deere who we rescued at SanXiaTai Brige. It was a scorching 36C outside and Sascha went back to the car while Stew and I slogged through talking about weather apps and regaling you with tales of the scalloped shaped bridge. On getting back to the car there was Sascha holding little JD who collapsed in front of him. Just skin and bones we couldn’t face putting him back on to the street. Beijing the luckiest and most handsome dog that has ever lived he was adopted within a few weeks of arriving back in Taipei.

SanXianTai Bridge

SanXianTai Bridge

I spent 4 months of the year travelling to technology conferences, so packing my bag to be productive on the road isn’t new. Piling into a car with 4 other people for 7 days of intense shooting was unforgettable.

If you’d like to see everything we’ve written about our trip down the East Coast of Taiwan, here is a link to our Out of the Box Tech and Travel Section.

The post River Rafting to Hot Air Balloons – Nicole Takes on Taiwan’s East Coast appeared first on Mobile Geeks.

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