Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: Motorola Moto E – Where ‘E’ Stands for Exceptional!

Pros: Maximum bang for the buck, Performance, Fresh Android, Expandable Storage, Gorilla Glass3 Protection, Build Quality & Screen.
Cons: Poor Fixed Focus Camera, Non-user removable battery and Availability issues.



The Motorola Moto E has been launched in India in May 2014 with a price tag of Rs. 7,000. The youngest phone in the Moto family is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 Dual-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 CPU, 1 GB RAM, Adreno 302 GPU, 4 GB internal memory with expandable storage upto 32 GB, 5 MP primary camera, 4.3 inches capacitive LCD touchscreen with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection and Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system.




Prologue

There are very few instances when a company rises from the ashes by launching a new product which redefines the segment, gains consumer’s confidence and again launches a product which again redefines another segment. Motorola did it with Moto G and now they are planning to do the same with Moto E. The 10k and sub10k mobile phone segments are very competitive and creating a product which identifies that segment is not a fun. But Motorola seems to have nailed it. They have launched very impressive phones recently in Indian Market – Moto G, Moto X and now the little Moto E. Let’s have a closer look at Moto E. 

Screen & Build Quality

When you first grab a Moto E in your hands, the sturdy build quality and premium feel will amaze you. Though at 143 grams it is not a light phone in any manner but thanks to its compact dimensions, it is easy to carry around Moto E. Build quality is pretty good, on the similar lines of Moto G. Back cover is made of plastic which doesn’t feel as plasticky as we have in, for example, Samsung phones. The back is removable and can be interchanged with colourful back covers available as separate after-market  accessories. On the back there is a conventional Motorola logo along with 5 MP camera minus a flash.





Moto E has 4.3 inches capacitive LCD touchscreen with 540 x 960 pixels resolution and ~256 ppi pixel density. It is Multitouch screen and protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. So when was the last time when you saw a phone worth 7 grands with corning gorilla glass protection? The screen on this phone is good enough for a budget smartphone with good color and contrast ratios. Day time visibility under direct sun is not very good attributing to the reflective nature of the screen. Otherwise it is just good. Reading text, watching movies/videos and viewing photos on Moto E is perfect as such. Touch response is decent. There are on screen back, home and menu buttons. The earpiece and mouthpiece grills are silver finished. This is just to differentiate with the biggie Moto G.

Camera, Buttons & Call/Audio Quality

Motorola ships Moto E with a fixed focus 5 MP camera without a flash which captures images of 2592 х 1944 pixels. Being a fixed focus camera one can assume the limitations of the lens as macro or close up photographs are simply impossible to take with Moto E. Also the indoor shots suffers from poor grain which again is result of inability of sharp focus. Outdoor photos are pretty satisfactory as far as segment of the phone is concerned but the quality of photos are nothing to write home about. The camera app supports basic features like geo tagging, panorama and HDR mode. Video recording is possible at 854x480@30fps resolution. Again the quality is pretty basic. If you want a phone with a better camera, you better extend your budget and get Moto G. There is no front camera in Moto E which was never expected either for a budget smartphone. Cost cutting is clearly evident in this department. Mobile Photography enthusiasts will be disappointed.



(Two Moto Es along with a Moto G)


(Notice a rather poor indoor quality photo from Moto E's lens)


Moto G has standard button configurations like most other smartphones including power button and volume controller on the right hand side of the phone. No dedicated camera button out here. 3.5mm audio jack is on top of the device along with noise cancellation microphone. USB cum charging port is on bottom side of the phone. Call quality is very good comparable with Nokias and Blackberrys! Speaker phone is very loud yet clear. Ear phones supplies with this phone offers average sound quality.

OS/Performance and Battery

Moto E has a modest processor when compared to Moto G's Quad Core chipset. Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 Dual-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 CPU coupled with 1 GB RAM and Adreno 302 GPU, Moto E easily handles all essential and basic tasks of a smartphone. With 4 GB internal memory on board and SD card expandability upto 32 GB, there is plenty of room to store your multimedia stuff. Now thanks to Motorola/Google tie up, Android 4.4.2 is running out of the box on a budget smartphone like Moto E which costs Rs.7000! There are phones in the market which are about four times priced higher than this yet running dated JellyBean OS under the hood. And the best part is, there will be guaranteed updates available OTA with Motorola/Google backed phones.  





Motorola has provided couple of proprietary apps to add a ‘Moto’ touch to it while not playing with neat and clean Android 4.4.2 interface and functionality. All essential apps came preinstalled with the phone. The phone app is the stock Android app with neat interface which is easy to use. Music player is trusted Google’s Play music.  Messaging app is Google hangout only.  Browser is Google’s very own Chrome. Browsing is very smooth with google chrome. In a nutshell there is hardly a third party app for basic functionalities which is mostly overridden by third party apps as in case of other manufactures providing their own interface layer over stock Android. Moto E also offers FM radio.






Overall performance is pretty smooth. Though it lacks the snappiness of the Moto G, Moto E performs quite decently. After all Moto E was never intended to be a power user phone. It is a phone for average daily smartphone user who requires all basic and necessary functionalities of a smartphone.  There is no lag as such, all basic games are playable on this phone. Moto E is a dual sim phone with active standby. 







HD movies can be played using after market players like MX player. There are no complaints of the phone getting heated up upon prolonged use as such. Moto E comes with a non-removable Li-Ion battery with capacity of 1980 mAh. Considering a Moto E’s humble hardware and screen, the battery life is satisfactory which lasts for a day easily on average use. Motorola provides 1 year manufacturer warranty for Phone and 6 months warranty for in the box accessories.

Conclusion

With Rs. 7,000 price tag, Moto E ticks most (in fact all) of the right boxes. There is no other phone in sub 10 k segment which comes closer to Moto E in terms of performance, design, sheer value for money and latest operating system running out of the box with future update guarantee. At the time of writing this text, Moto E is already setting the sales charts on fire!

Ratings (out of 5 stars)

Build Quality *****
Screen ****
Camera ***
Performance ****
Value for Money *****


Overall *****

 Specs at a glance

Screen
4.3 inches LCD capacitive touchscreen with resolution of 540 x 960 pixels and ~256 ppi pixel density
Processor

GPU
Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 Chipset, Dual-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 CPU
Adreno 302 GPU
RAM
1 GB RAM
Storage
4 GB internal memory with microSD support up to 32 GB
Camera
5 MP Primary camera
Network Type
Dual SIM, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 GPS, GPRS/EDGE, 3G, FM Radio
Battery
Li-Ion 1980 mAh battery
OS
Android 4.4.2 KitKat
Dimensions
124.8 x 64.8 x 12.3 mm
Weight
142 grams


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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Review: HP 2000-2D89NR Notebook PC – Beauty with brains & brawns!

Pros: Lightweight, timeless HP design, Web camera quality and Decent specs
Cons: Glossy surface, no dedicated number pad and this particular model is available only in US.



The HP 2000-2D89NR  is powered by 4th Gen Intel Pentium Core i5 2.6 GHz 3230M processor, 4 GB DDR3-SDRAM, On board Intel HD 4000 Graphics  with 1696 MB memory, 500 GB HDD,  15.6 inch HD LED Bright View Display with resolution of 1366 x 768 Pixels and pre-installed Windows 8 operating system. HP 2000-2d89nr is available for $430 on Amazon. It is not available in India.

Design, Build Quality & Display

The HP 2000-2D89NR has conventional Hewlett Packard styling which pleases all and offends none. It is way better than some of the models which HP is selling in India. The body panels are made up of nice plastic body highly glossy surface. At 2.2 KGs it is very light weight and easy to handle. It has 15.6 inches HD LED Bright View Display with resolution of 1366 x 768 Pixels which is just ok for a screen of this size. Build quality is nice and sturdy. The panels looks and feels strong.






At 9.72 x 14.80 x 1.41 inches it is quite compact to carry around. Display quality is very good, images, text and videos appears crisp and excellent with true and natural colour reproduction. Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics makes games and movies look even vibrant. The body surface and panels are very glossy which results in difficult in maintenance due to frequent mugging the surface with finger print and oily marks. It has a 2 MP web camera which records great quality video.

Speakers, Ports, Keyboard/Touch Pad & Drives

HP 2000 has very fine quality speakers producing excellent sound. The quality is so nice that you won’t ever need to upgrade to USB powered aftermarket speakers. The speakers are located on the front side instead of conventional on top of keyboard position. Perfect for movies and music. The keyboard is well designed with all keys well-spaced keys which are convenient to use. Ergonomic wise keyboard is perfect. However, it lacks a dedicated number pad which is slightly inconvenient for people who are used to full sized keyboards with number pad.







It has all essential and basic ports including USB ports, a mic in & audio jack, LAN, HDMI, multi card slot,  802.11bgn Wi-Fi module and a tray load DVD RW Drive with Dual Layer Support. Touch pad is also responsive and supports a few multi touch gestures.

Performance, OS, Storage & Battery life.

Under the hood of HP 2000-2D89NR laptop lies an 4th Gen Intel Pentium Core i5 2.6 GHz 3230M processor, 4 GB DDR3-SDRAM, On board Intel HD Graphics 1696 MB, 500 GB HDD,  and pre-installed Windows 8 operating system. When you first turn on the system, it asks the user to initially setup the windows. It doesn’t have MS-Office preinstalled. Thanks to the 4th Gen 2.6 GHz i5 processor, performance is at par.









 All heavy applications like Visual Studio, Adobe Photoshop, IDEs like Eclipse just work quite smoothly. Intel HD Graphics 4000 is sufficient for light to moderate gaming. However with absence of a dedicated graphic card, one will not able to play high end games at greater fps settings. Windows 8 operating system is upgradable to Windows 8.1 OS from update centre. It has 500 GB HDD spinning @ 5400 RPM. HDD capacity is slightly on lower side. 500 GB is for entry level systems. This hsould have at least 1 TB HDD for a perfect package. This laptop comes with a lithium ion battery which provides backup time of upto 4 hours which will vary according to usage pattern.

Verdict

If you want to buy a new laptop and have someone in US or you yourself or your friend is visiting the country then this particular laptop is true value for money. At $430 (Rs. 26,000 INR) it is at least Rs. 10,000 cheaper than any other similar spec machine on sale in India.

Ratings (out of 5 stars)

Build Quality *****
Screen ****
Performance *****
Value for Money *****


Overall *****

Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – The Royal Beast!

Pros – Performance, design, camera, great screen, and stylus functionalities.
Cons – Overpriced, back case leather quality not up to the mark, poor low light photography, and no FM Radio.



The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was launched in India in September 2013 which is now available for Rs. 41,000. The mighty phablet is powered by a Exynos 5 Octa 5420 Quad-core 1.9 GHz Cortex-A15 & quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7 Processor, 3 GB RAM, Mali-T628 MP6 GPU, 32 GB internal memory with microSD support upto 64 GB, 13 MP primary camera, 2 MP secondary camera, 5.7 inches Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen and Android 4.3 JellyBean OS.  



The phablet segment was introduced by Samsung with the launch of original Note in 2011. The phone received decent response from customers and in 2012 Samsung improved the phone and launched Note II. It received an overwhelming response and managed to set the sales chart on fire. In the latest iteration, Note 3 promises to be bigger, bolder and better than any other phone available in the market and to some extent the promise is fulfilled. Let’s have a closer glance to Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Screen & Build Quality

Note 3 means a splendid viewing experience. Sporting a 5.7 inches Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels and ~386 ppi pixel density, it would be not wrong to say that Note 3 has the best screen till date. It is a multi-touch screen protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The text is sharper, images and videos are crisper, color and contrast reproduction is realistic and most importantly it is easy on eyes. Watching HD videos and movies is a delightful experience.






The Note 3 has superior build quality even though it is completely made of plastic body. Design wise, Note 3 resembles its predecessors and there is hardly any notable difference except for minor changes. Being a phablet, Note 3 is still easy to operate and use. It weighs around 170 grams along with the weight of stylus which is on lighter side considering the size of this phone. The back cover is made of faux leather which is not of very superior quality. Though it gives a premium feel when compared to plain plastic back panel of Note 2. On the back there is a 13MP camera along with flash and Samsung logo embossed on the panel in silver finish. The stylus sits at the bottom left of the phone.

Camera, Buttons & Call/Audio Quality

Samsung Note 3 has a very capable 13 MP primary camera which clicks pictures with max resolution of 4128 x 3096 pixels. Now it has various features on board like autofocus, LED flash, Dual Shot, Simultaneous HD video and image recording, geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, image stabilization, panorama and HDR. There is no shutter lag at all.  It also supports 1080p video recording with its both front and rear cameras. Secondary camera is 2MP lens which is just adequate for the skype calling etc. Daytime image quality of Note 3’s camera is exceptional but it suffers from poor low light ambient conditions. There is no night mode in the camera and low light photography will leave you disappointed. Though the primary camera is equipped with BSI sensor but it still doesn’t help much for night photography.







Note 3 has a power button on the right hand side, volume rocker controller on left hand side, 3.5 mm audio port on the top and charging/USB connector at the bottom along with the housing of the S-pen. The vocals from ear piece are loud and clear, same for the microphone. Music sound quality is brilliant, speakerphone is however, not very loud. The S Pen is optimised for features like Air Command, Action Memo, Scrapbook, S Finder, Pen Window, Multi Window and Direct Pen Input.

OS/Performance and Battery

The heart of the matter – The hardware. Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has some really impressive hardware specifications. Note 3 is powered by a Exynos 5 Octa 5420 Quad-core 1.9 GHz Cortex-A15 & quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7 Processor, 3 GB RAM, Mali-T628 MP6 GPU, 32 GB internal memory with microSD support upto 64 GB, 13 MP primary camera, 2 MP secondary camera, and Android 4.3 JellyBean OS. As far as performance is concerned, it will just amaze you by its speed and responsiveness. Lag is a word of past for Note 3 users. Every app, every game performs just seamlessly on Note 3. Playing games like real racing, NFS on this phone is simply an awesome experience. Note 3 has number of integrated sensors like Gyroscope, Gesture, Temperature and Humidity, Accelerometer, Hall Sensor, RGB, Geo-magnetic, Barometer and Proximity sensors. It also supports NFC and has universal IR LED Remote Control along with a TV out port.




Samsung Note 3 has Android 4.3 out of the box along with Samsung touchwiz UI. Note 3 offers plethora of features and apps including Group Play : Share Music, Share Picture, Share Video, Share Document, Play Games, Story Album, S Translator, Samsung Smart Scroll, Samsung Smart Pause, Air Gesture, Air View, Samsung Apps, Samsung Hub, ChatON, Samsung WatchON, S Voice Hands Free, S Health, Samsung Adapt Display, Samsung Adapt Sound Auto Adjust Touch Sensitivity, Samsung Link, Screen Mirroring, Safety Assistance, Samsung KNOX and Important Apps Chrome, Search, Gmail, Google+, Maps, Play Books, Play Movies, Play Music, Play Store, Hangouts, Voice Search, YouTube, Google Settings, Play Games and Messenger.







Samsung Galaxy Note 3 has removable Li-Ion 3200 mAh battery which powers this beast. It lasts a day easily with light to moderate use, heavy users might want to carry a power bank to top up the charge. Just like for every other phone, Samsung provides 1 year manufacturer warranty for Phone and 6 months warranty for in the box accessories.

Conclusion

When Note 3 was launched last year, it was heavily criticised for its absurd pricing but as the time progressed, Samsung has lowered the price by 9k and now it is available for Rs. 41000. It still may look a notch overpriced to many but at this point of time, Note 3 is very worthy purchase if you want a high end large screen Android smartphone.

Ratings (out of 5 stars)

Build Quality ****
Screen *****
Performance *****
Camera ****
Value for Money ***


Overall *****

Specs at a glance

Screen
5.7 inches Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels and ~386 ppi pixel density
Processor

GPU
Exynos 5 Octa 5420 chipset Quad-core 1.9 GHz Cortex-A15 & quad-core 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7 Processor &  Mali-T628 MP6 GPU
RAM
3 GB RAM
Storage
32 GB internal memory with microSD support up to 64 GB
Camera
13 MP Primary camera + 2 MP front camera
Network Type
HSPDA, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 GPS, GPRS/EDGE, Universal Infrared, Remote and NFC
Battery
Li-Ion 3200 mAh batter
OS
Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
Dimensions
151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm
Weight
168 grams

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