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1 month ago

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge UK review: Awesome is the new ordinary

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Galaxy S7 edge

Expectations of high-end smartphones are higher than ever, and the competition more fierce than it's ever been. The Galaxy S7 edge needs to live up to the hype — and it does.

In 2016, if you're demanding top dollar for a high-end phone, you can't afford to screw anything up. The technology for phenomenal smartphone experiences is within the grasp of all the major players. And competition is such that any device that misses the mark will be chewed out by critics and rivals alike.

This is the competitive environment into which the Samsung Galaxy S7 series is born.

Samsung, for all its monetary and marketing grunt, hasn't always knocked it out of the park. In 2015, the number one Android manufacturer was forced into a complete re-think of its industrial design after the previous year's Galaxy S5 received a lukewarm reception. Even the Galaxy S6, for all its strengths, had a couple of obvious weaknesses: the removal of the SD card slot for expandable storage, and pretty dismal battery life.

To hold onto its crown, Samsung needs to finally deliver the "no-compromises" Galaxy S phone we've been waiting on for what seems like an eternity. This year the Korean firm's curvy Edge Display graduates from quirky sidekick into a starring role — it's the Galaxy S7 edge, not the flat GS7, which now leads the lineup.

So how does hype compare with reality? We've been using the UK-spec Galaxy S7 edge — with Samsung's own Exynos processor — in recent weeks, and we offer up our considered opinion below.

About this review

I (Alex Dobie) am writing this review after a couple of weeks with the European Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (SM-G935F) in Manchester, UK, and Hamburg, Germany, on the EE and Telekom.de networks. During most of that time the phone was running firmware version G935FXXU1APAW. Shortly before publishing this review it received an over-the-air update to version G935FXXU1APC8. I've also been using the GS7 edge with a Moto 360 (second-gen) smartwatch.

In the UK, the GS7 and GS7 edge feature Samsung's own Exynos 8890 processor, as opposed to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 used in the U.S. and Chinese models, so that's what we're reviewing here.

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1 month ago

Moto X Play is now receiving Android 6.0.1 in Canada

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The Android 6.0.1 update is now pushing out for Moto X Play owners in Canada. This update brings along with it a number of changes, including some new emoji for you to check out. The update has only just started pushing out, so it may be a day or two before it arrives on your phone.

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1 month ago

LG 360 VR listed at $199, according to online retailer

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LG 360 VR

LG's play for virtual reality will cost you a couple hundred dollars, according to an early listing at B&H Photo. The LG 360 VR is listed at $199, same as the LG 360 CAM handheld 360-degree camera. The two work in concert with the LG G5 as part of the "Friends" ecosystem of products.

And the 360 VR goggles themselves are powered by the G5, plugging in via USB-C. The phone then powers what you're seeing, which essentially is a better version of Google Cardboard. It's more 360-degree viewing that it is true VR. But it's also done in a smaller faceprint than the likes of Samsung's Gear VR, which straps the goggles and phone to your face. LG splits things up via the USB-C cable, making it more lightweight (and arguably less weird-looking). It's also not as light-tight and immersive, however.

LG has worked with Google on the 360 CAM, which should be excellent for Street View content, as well as running all the current Google Cardboard apps.

See at B&H

LG G5

AT&T Unlocked Sprint T-Mobile

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width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox, div *:not(:last-of-type):not(div) + .devicebox, div .netshelter-ad + .devicebox:not(:nth-last-of-type(3)) { float: none; margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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1 month ago

LG 360 CAM to retail at $199, say Sprint, B&H

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LG's handheld 360-degree camera — the aptly named LG 360 CAM — will retail for $199, according to a preorder listing on B&H Photo, as well as in a leak from Sprint. The 360 CAM is part of the "friends" ecosystem that comes alongside the LG G5, which will be available starting April 1.

The camera is LG's answer to the personal 360-degree video game, which also will see an entry from Samsung this summer, in addition to the non-mobile 360-degree shooters we've seen from other companies.

See at B&H

LG G5

AT&T Unlocked Sprint T-Mobile

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max-width: 350px; width: 50%; } div *:not(:last-of-type):not(div) + .devicebox h3, div .netshelter-ad + .devicebox:not(:nth-last-of-type(3)) h3 { text-align: center; } div *:not(:last-of-type):not(div) + .devicebox a.buy-link, div .netshelter-ad + .devicebox:not(:nth-last-of-type(3)) a.buy-link { margin: 0 5px 8px 0; width: calc(50% - 5px); } div *:not(:last-of-type):not(div) + .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-child(even), div .netshelter-ad + .devicebox:not(:nth-last-of-type(3)) .devicebox a.buy-link:last-child, div *:not(:last-of-type):not(div) + .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-child(even), div .netshelter-ad + .devicebox:not(:nth-last-of-type(3)) .devicebox a.buy-link:last-child { margin-right: 0; } div *:not(:last-of-type):not(div) + .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-child(odd):last-child, div .netshelter-ad + .devicebox:not(:nth-last-of-type(3)) a.buy-link:nth-child(odd):last-child { display: block; margin-right: 0; width: auto; } /* LANDSCAPE */ @media all and (min-width: 1025px) { .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; 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margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px), all and (max-width: 500px) { div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox a.buy-link { margin: 0 5px 8px 0; width: calc(50% - 5px); } div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-child(even), div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox a.buy-link:last-child { margin-right: 0; } div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-child(odd):last-child { display: block; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox .video, div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox h3 + p { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } div :last-of-type ~ .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 20px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 59px; } div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox p img, div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox p, div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) and (min-width: 501px) { div *:not(:last-of-type):not(div) + .devicebox a.buy-link:before, div .netshelter-ad + .devicebox:not(:nth-last-of-type(3)) a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } @media all and (max-width: 660px), all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px) { div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } div :last-of-type ~ .devicebox ul, div :last-of-type ~ .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 660px) and (min-width: 501px), all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px) { div *:last-of-type ~ .devicebox a.buy-link { margin: 0 5px 8px 0; 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width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox, div *:not(:last-of-type):not(div) + .devicebox, div .netshelter-ad + .devicebox:not(:nth-last-of-type(3)) { float: none; margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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1 month ago

These are the top Samsung phones you need to know

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These are the top Samsung phones you need to know

In the world of smartphones, it's impossible to ignore the influence of Samsung. Since its explosion into Android with the launch of the Galaxy S2 globally, Samsung has firmly held on to the top spot in Android devices sold — and though the playing field has leveled off some in recent years the Korean manufacturer still has one of the most recognizable lines of phones out there today.

The "Galaxy" name gets spread around to its entire lineup of Android phones, but when it really comes down to it there are just a handful of Samsung's high-end devices that you need to know about. Let us introduce you to the top phones from Samsung.

Article updated March 2016

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1 month ago

The LG G5 can still offer good audio, even without the B&O Hi-Fi audio module

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The LG G5 may not need a Hi-Fi module, but it's still a great option to have available.

Many of us are looking forward to seeing how well the Bang & Olufsen Hi-Fi audio module for the LG G5 performs. While not yet mainstream, high quality audio performance through the headphone jack is something phone manufacturers are starting to pay attention to, and plenty of us couldn't be happier.

But what happens if you have no interest in buying the audio module for the G5? Maybe you're not ready to spend the money for "better" music, or you are completely satisfied with streaming services through the speakers or headphones you already have. That's valid thinking. For many of us, it's simply not worth the added cost and we're happy with the way "regular" music sounds.

If that sounds like you, the LG G5 will be just fine without buying any extra hardware.

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1 month ago

HTC 10 will have an online-only launch on April 12

84

HTC has announced that on April 12 it will officially unveil its latest smartphone which is rumored to be the HTC 10. This time around the company is doing an online-only unveiling, which it also did in 2015 for the HTC One A9. HTC has been teasing the phone with the hashtag "#powerof10" for the past few weeks, and now we finally know when we will see it officially.

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1 month ago

Galaxy S7 edge picks up March security update in the UK

20

The Galaxy S7 edge is now receiving the March security update in the UK. The OTA update comes in at 74.34MB, and includes the latest vulnerability fixes as prescribed by Google.

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1 month ago

LG's X cam and X screen launch in South Korea this week, other markets to follow

2

LG has announced that its latest X series of smartphones will begin their global rollout starting this week.

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1 month ago

Sony Xperia Z5 U.S. review: A great camera can't save a compromised phone

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Sony Xperia Z5

It takes beautiful photos and has great hardware, but it doesn't quite deliver a stellar experience.

Quick take

The Sony Xperia Z5 has a sleek look, designed with a metal frame and tempered fingerprint-resistant glass over the display. It delivers a decent display and a solid processor, with a battery that will definitely get you through the day. The real feature is the camera, and the ability to capture 4K video at a tap. But in the U.S. the Z5 is a lesser phone than overseas, and at its current price point is a hard sell.

The good

  • Awesome camera
  • Great battery life
  • Just updated to Marshmallow
  • Dedicated camera button

The bad

  • Feels fragile in your hand
  • Weird button placement
  • No stabilization for the camera
  • Fingerprint sensor removed

About this review

This is a review of the U.S. version of the Sony Xperia Z5 — we reviewed the European version in November 2015. I (Jen Karner) used the Sony Xperia Z5 on the T-Mobile network in Halethorpe, Md. It was used in the greater Baltimore area with good signal throughout. I was using the silver 32GB model running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, Build 32.0.A.6.209, for a week. During the review period it was paired with a 2015 Honda Fit, and with a Samsung Gear Circle Headset.

On March 14, 2016, an over-the-air update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow was received and installed.

Hardware

Lots of unrefined power

Sony Xperia Z5 Hardware

Category | Features --- | --- Display | 5.2-inch 1920x1080 IPS HD Processor | Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core 64 bit processor Storage | 32GB on device, 200GB expandable RAM | 3GB Rear Camera | 23MP with Exmor RS, Steadyshot with Intelligent Active Mode Front Camera | 5MP Speakers | S-Force Front surround Stereo speakers Waterproofing ] IP65 / IP68 dust-tight & waterproof Battery | 2900 mAh Size | 146 x 72 x 7.3 mm
154 g

The first thing you noticed when picking up the Xperia Z5 for the first time was how light and fragile it feels. Even though it's a metal frame with tempered glass, it doesn't feel solid. It's almost plastic-like. The desire to grab a case for it as soon as you pick it up is strong, more so than many other phones available right now. This 5.2-inch rectangular slab looks gorgeous when it's on the table, it just doesn't feel the same way when it's in your hand.

It's rocking a 5.2-inch 1080p IPS display that doesn't quite take up the whole front of the phone. It does the job quite well though, being easy to see in bright light, although there were some occasional issues with reflection even with the brightness jacked up to 100 percent. Indoors you get bright and vibrant colors that weren't oversaturated, which is a welcomed departure from current AMOLED experiences.

The display is surrounded by a white glass border on all sides; speaker cut outs are located at both the top and bottom of the front of the phone are small and discrete, but they definitely put out some serious sound. Some minor Sony branding sits directly over the display, flanked by the front facing camera and sensors. This is a Sony phone, instantly recognizable by the design language they've been relying on for years — even without the old round power button on the side.

There's a volume rocker, and then a dedicated camera button, all on the lower right side of the phone. The power button is flush to the phone, followed by the rocker, with the camera button at the bottom, so it's easy to navigate between your buttons by touch. However, if you're trying to use the Xperia Z5 one-handed it can be a weird stretch to try and hit the camera button. Putting that awesome camera button so far down that you can barely reach continues to be a weird choice for Sony.

You'll find a headphone jack on the top of the phone, and a micro-USB charging port at the bottom of the phone. On the upper right side is a pop-out panel for your SIM and microSD cards, along with some discrete Xperia branding near the bottom of the phone. On the back of you'll again find some fairly minimal branding with "Sony" across the middle, Xperia across the bottom. All of the branding on the Xperia Z5 is a metallic silver, and isn't actually too noticeable when you are out and about. The rear-facing camera is mounted flush to the phone on the top left.

It was strange to see that they didn't include a fingerprint sensor.

The Snapdragon 810 processor is generally able to take everything you threw at it. There was some lag initially while using Google Now, but otherwise there aren't any noticeable problems. Sony has clearly done some work to optimize this processor a little better than the early efforts with the UK release of the phone. The Xperia Z5 is also rated dust and waterproof which is a fantastic feature, especially if you've ever known the horror of dropping your phone in a pet's water bowl. Which I have, repeatedly.

It was strange however to see that they didn't include a fingerprint sensor in the U.S. model of Z5, especially since it was included in the European release. Fingerprint sensors are a nearly a must-have feature at this point, and to go out of their way to remove it from the U.S. release is just a really weird choice. Unless the fingerprint sensor wasn't working correctly, it seems counter intuitive to remove a feature that's available from their competition. The really unfortunate part is that a fingerprint sensor would have really helped to round the phone's features out a bit more, and even more so now that it's running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Streamlined and simple

Sony Xperia Z5 Software

This review initially started while the Xperia Z5 was running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. But the phone received an over-the-air update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow during the review process, which was awesome to see. While running Lollipop isn't a deal-breaker for some, plenty of people want the most up-to-date software possible on their phones. Sony includes several of their own apps on the phone, most of which could be uninstalled.

Most of the software didn't exactly knock me out of the water with must-have features, but everything worked quite smoothly and without any noticeable lag. Sony's interface hasn't had any dramatic changes recently, and for the most it part stays out of the way of Google's design decisions. Since this is a Sony phone, there is an added benefit for any gamers enjoying their PlayStation 4. The Xperia Z5 comes preloaded with PlayStation Network apps, letting you access your system even when you aren't at home.

You can connect to your PS4 with remote play, see your notifications, and purchase new games.

In addition to the main PSN app, the Xperia Z5 also packs PlayStation Video and PlayStation Music. You can connect to your PlayStation 4 with remote play, see your notifications, and purchase new games. You can also see your PSN wall and notifications, amongst other things. The integration makes it easier for us console gamers to have games downloaded, even if we aren't at home or by a computer to give them a whirl. Just keep in mind that remote play is only available if you are using your phone on the same Wi-Fi network as your PlayStation 4.

While the Snapdragon 810 processor easily handled everything thrown at it performance-wise, we did notice that prolonged use made the entire phone heat up. This wasn't until we had been playing games for upwards of 40 minutes, but it got bad enough that just about anyone would have to put the phone down to rest, which was unfortunate. That said, it never actually produced an overheating alert, so the casing was doing its job in dissipating that heat. If the phone wasn't built so thin and light, it's possible the heat would never get to bother the user.

Camera

Beautiful shots day, or night

Sony Xperia Z5 camera

When it comes to the camera and its many options, it's very easy to see that this where Sony spent a lot of their energy. The focus is quick so that you can grab photos in the moment, and despite the lack of optical image stabilization you aren't likely to encounter issues getting a clear photo with the rear facing camera. Taking a steady selfie was a bigger problem, but still not unheard of considering the size of the Xperia Z5. The rear camera packs a 23MP sensor with incredibly fast autofocus, paired up with a 5MP front-facing camera for all your selfie needs.

Whether you're a casual photographer, or you like to have control over every aspect of your photos, Sony has you covered. The default mode is Superior Auto, and for all of your daylight pictures it has you covered pretty well without always delivering the absolute best photo available. Manual mode gets you access to all the bells and whistles from white balance to color saturation.

While the Xperia Z5 does have the capacity for 4K video, it isn't your default. Instead the initial default is 30fps, although you can adjust that up to 60fps from the settings. To record 4K video, you'll need to use one of the camera apps that Sony throws at you, and booting that up will warn you about overheating your phone.

4K video isn't the only app available either. There are nearly a dozen camera apps on your phone by default, covering features like AR effects and panorama shots. Each app is built around one specific feature, so they're not all really worth your time, but they can become a fun distraction. Some of them are pretty processor intensive, so they may give you heat warnings when you launch them.

Now Sony did a fair bit of boasting about this camera, and it isn't at all unwarranted. When it came to taking low light photos, the camera pulls in a surprising amount of light. It doesn't have the best low-light performance around, but it runs with the vast majority of smartphones in its capabilities there. And the photos you take won't always be particularly high quality, but when choosing between grain and blurry or no photo at all, it's easy to see which direction Sony went. The low light pictures in the gallery above were taken well after midnight on the East Coast, with next to no useful light. Obviously, these pictures weren't as crystal clear as daylight photos, but that's understandable considering the difference in available lighting. Even the front-facing camera managed to catch some decent shots in low light, which was surprising.

Just a few of the wacky one-off camera app options on the Sony Xperia Z5.

The photos taken in full daylight are absolutely gorgeous. They're sharp and clear without any issues of oversaturation on the display. You also have access to specific options for each mode of shooting. These include the normal bits like whether you want to activate the flash, or the resolution that you shoot in. You can also play with color levels and brightness. If you know what you're doing it's easy to get lost playing with the camera for an hour or two as you find all of its quirks and features.

This may not be the best smartphone camera out there, but it's a contender. Sony's efforts in photography have always been exceptional, and it's great to see this phone continue to reflect that.

Battery stats

Powering the workday and beyond

Sony Xperia Z5 Battery life

You can have the best camera the world, or the fastest processor, or an incredible display, but it won't make much of a difference if your battery can't go the distance. While you won't find a massive hulk of a battery inside the slim frame, it will get you where you need to go. The Xperia Z5 has a 2900 mAh battery that easily got me through the day without needing to top off or charge up. On average, this phone would get upwards of 16 hours with four or more hours of screen on time. On a day of relatively low use, that was stretched to 30 hours with no problems.

This phone also charges quickly, though not because the charger in the box supports Quick Charge. You'll need a third-party charger to get those rapid charging times, but watching the phone go from 10 percent to 70 percent in under an hour is impressive all the same.

Bottom Line

Fun, but maybe not for you

Sony Xperia Z5: Bottom line

If you've been looking for a good phone rocking a fantastic camera, then you should definitely take a look at the Sony Xperia Z5. It's got a beautiful display, a long-lasting battery, and a design that's easy on the eyes — even if it doesn't always feel solid in your hand. The processor should easily handle anything you throw at it, both today and into the future.

With a $599 price point it's getting very close to competing with the new Galaxy S7, which starts at $649, and in that contest it falls behind. It has a smaller battery, arguably not as nice of external hardware, and lacks a fingerprint sensor in the U.S., but definitely has a leg up with its tamer software. The Sony Xperia Z5 has plenty of features from a crisp display that sweet, sweet, camera to expandable storage with an SD Card, and a battery that will get you through the day.

Should you buy it

Should you buy it? Do it for the camera

As usual, it comes down to the features that matter the most to you. The processor, display, and battery are all really solid, but it's the camera that really makes the Sony Xperia Z5 worth the price. With 32GB of onboard storage, expandable storage and the fresh upgrade to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, this phone is a competitor. It's really just a give and take, what you want out of a phone versus what you're willing to sacrifice. With all of that in mind, we definitely suggest taking some time to decide what the most important features to you are.

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