Reviews – Droid Life https://www.droid-life.com An intense Android news community bringing you the latest in phones, rooting, apps, and reviews. Fri, 15 Dec 2017 19:33:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pixel Buds Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/12/12/pixel-buds-review/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/12/12/pixel-buds-review/#comments Tue, 12 Dec 2017 21:31:32 +0000 https://www.droid-life.com/?p=209550

Google’s first pair of headphones or earbuds or wireless-but-not-truly-wireless in-ears or whatever you want to call them, are here. They are the Pixel Buds and I’d be shocked if you know what these are and also haven’t read one of the early reviews that mostly destroyed them. I say that because we’re talking about Google’s … Continued

Pixel Buds Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Google’s first pair of headphones or earbuds or wireless-but-not-truly-wireless in-ears or whatever you want to call them, are here. They are the Pixel Buds and I’d be shocked if you know what these are and also haven’t read one of the early reviews that mostly destroyed them. I say that because we’re talking about Google’s own smart earbuds that cost a whopping $160. You either know or you don’t know about them, and if you do, that means something about their introduction grabbed your attention and you sought out words from reviewers.

What I can tell you in this review, assuming you are still contemplating them and are hoping that after further testing or later testing, that a reviewer (me) would change the tone and offer up an alternate view that will get you to pull the trigger, is that I’m sorry because that’s likely not going to happen. I will share some thoughts, though! These aren’t all bad, they are just a mostly average first attempt in too many ways.

This is our Pixel Buds review.

pixel buds review

What are the Pixel Buds and how do they work?

Google’s first earbuds! They are wireless to a certain extent, though they do have a wire between them that you most definitely should not cut as an attempt to make them truly wireless. They cost $159. They work on Android and iOS devices, but the experience through the Pixel phones is slightly improved as it offers a pretty cool real-time translation feature. They also have Google Assistant onboard which works on all phones running Android 6.0+.

In the right bud, you get a touch-sensitive outer case that allows you to fire up the Google Assistant for voice actions, control volume, pause/play audio, and listen to notifications.

The Pixel Buds are available in three colors (Just Black, Clearly White, and Kinda Blue), come with a carrying case that doubles as their charger. Again, they cost $159 at the Google Store and Best Buy.

pixel buds review

What’s good about them?

As I mentioned above, this isn’t going to be a glowing review of the Pixel Buds, but I do have some positive notes to share. For one, the Google Assistant onboard is pretty cool, plus I don’t think the audio experience is all that bad for casual use.

1. Google Assistant is the future of headphones. The first time you pair the Pixel Buds to your phone and a notification comes in, you’ll get a mini in-ear tutorial on what to do next. It’ll tell you that you can double tap to get a re-hashing of your day, including a readout of your notifications available. As notifications roll in, especially from messaging apps like Hangouts, you can get readouts of those messages and even reply back. Rather than just hearing a beep like most headphones, listening to your notifications is super powerful and handy. That stuff is all done very well and is the best feature of the Pixel Buds.

It’ll also tell you that to fire up the Assistant, you’ll long-press on the touchpad until you are finished with your command.  That means the other Google Assistant features are here too, like checking the weather, getting directions or answers to questions, firing up music and playlists, adding items to your shopping list, controlling your home, and setting reminders or timers. It’s very much like how Google Home works in that you don’t have a screen to do any of this stuff, so you are relying on voice commands and Google understanding you. I’d call this a mostly well-done Assistant experience for a first attempt.

In fact, this is the future of headphones, I think. While I’ll talk about some issues below, this ability to access the Assistant from within headphones is something that all headphones are going to need. We aren’t going to want to live without it once we all get a taste. I’m already feeling that way, that’s for sure.

pixel buds review

2. The audio isn’t offensive and that’s fine for most. Look, I’m no audiophile, but the audio experience here is good enough. Google isn’t making $400 over-ear cans here. These are buds and they offer up ample bass for buds, clean mids with somewhat mushy highs. They are fine. I’ve jumped between these and the new Libratone Q Adapt USB-C earbuds that were released alongside the Pixel 2 and they keep up well there. For a wireless pair of headphones, made by Google who isn’t an audio company, to hold up against those, that’s probably good enough.

Are these going to satisfy audio bro with his DAC in a dimly lit room smelling of old leather and cigar butts? No. Are they going to offer a steady musical experience for you in-between trips to and from work or while sitting at your desk all day long? Yeah.

3. Battery life is as advertised. Google lists the Pixel Buds as lasting about 5 hours on a single charge (120mAh battery inside), along with enough juice in the case (620mAh battery inside) to get you multiple additional charges that could last upwards of 24 hours. I’ve been testing the Pixel Buds off and on for the past couple of weeks and haven’t killed them in a 3-hour period. I’ll listen for an hour or so, put them down, listen again, put them down, and then check battery and its always got 50% or more left. For example, I’m a good two hours into writing this review and I’m at 57% after messing with them constantly by jumping them from device to device and also streaming music non-stop. I’d say they’ll probably last 4-5 hours on a charge.

With the included case also holding another couple of charges, you should have no problem getting a full day’s use out of the Pixel Buds. Your purchase of them includes a USB-C cable too, so you shouldn’t have any issuing juicing them back up overnight.

What’s not-so-good about them?

Well, I have a list, so bear with me.

1. The setup process is both convenient and somewhat frustrating. Those are polar opposite items, so let me try to explain that. The Pixel Buds can utilize Google’s new Fast Pair process for pairing headphones with a single tap. It is indeed here, and it works well when your phone recognizes the Pixel Buds. I ran into some issues where I followed Google’s directions to initiate the pairing process and nothing happened, though. Since there isn’t much of an interface, trying to then force-start that process proved to be difficult until I dove into Google’s online support section for the Pixel Buds.

In order to get these into pairing mode manually, you have to put them back in their charging case and then long-press on a button within the case for a few seconds until they get into pairing mode. You hope that Fast Pair fires up, but if it doesn’t you should be able to find them as an available device within Bluetooth settings. That’s not the worst process once you know it, just be aware.

On top of that, the Pixel Buds only work with a single device at a time. So if you wanted to pair them with your computer and your phone, or your work phone and personal phone, you can’t keep them connected to both at the same time. They will switch between devices that you have previously paired to as you disconnect one.

pixel buds review

2. Charging is fine, but not a great experience. To charge the Pixel Buds you have to slap them in this cheapish-feeling case that is designed pretty poorly and isn’t easy to open. I hate to nitpick something like a case top, but look at this setup (above). Google used a cutout on the top flap in order to allow you to separate the top from the bottom as you open. Except, the cutout should be on the bottom section, so that as you go to open, you would be able to lift the top. With this terrible design, you have to actually push the bottom case downward in order to separate top from bottom. That’s a functional disaster of a design decision, if I’m being honest. Anyways, back to charging.

Once you have the case open, you slot the right and left earbuds into the case in their appropriate slots and then proceed to wrap the cord around the case in a specific manner to secure them for juice. It’s not a hard wrap-around move once you do it a couple of times, but getting the buds and their pins aligned properly in their slots isn’t always so easy. In fact, I’ve had multiple occasions where I thought the buds were properly placed, yet no indicator light fired up to show me they were charging. I then had to wiggle and wiggle and wiggle until they moved ever-so-slightly and into position to get the light to fire up. But to be honest, I think they often were in the right place, the light just didn’t light up to confirm that they were. It’s weird.

Once they do start charging, you get an indicator to show you what their battery level is, sort of. You get a blinking green light if charging, a solid green light if fully charged, or an amber light if “critically low.” That’s it. So if you are half-charged, which wouldn’t be critically low, you’d see a blinking green light. I don’t know about you, but a green light typically means, “Go get ’em, champ!” yet in this situation that could mean not much of a charge. As for the case, it also has its own battery meter that shows up to 3 white dots (3 is full) at a time.

Did I just nitpick the hell out of charging? Yep! Normally, that would be a bunch of wasted breath, but come on, charging shouldn’t be this awkward.

3. Comfort, seal, and sizing all aren’t good. The Pixel Buds definitely gave me some ear fatigue the first couple of times I used them. It’s tough to tell if that’s because of their weight or because they are just too big for my ears. I’m assuming it’s their size and my ears, but I also wonder if it’s because they use the cable attached to provide stabilization. Instead of fins or rubber ear pieces like other buds in the industry use, Google just wants you to pull the string attached to the two, to get a proper fit. It does work initially, but I found that the cords gave way with each wear and I had to re-adjust them each time before using.

I also feel that because we’re using a soft rope/cable to hold these buds in place, you never really get a good seal to really amplify the audio experience. And that’s worth noting, because the Pixel Buds are a one-size-fits-all pair of buds, unlike others in the same space that offer tips or fins to help you get the best fit.

pixel buds review

4. What about for workouts? So I live in the wet winter wonderland of Portland, OR, and that means I took the Pixel Buds on a 6 mile run in the rain. They got wet. I probably shouldn’t have done that, but some have asked if they’d be good for runs or at the gym. On a run, I’d say not so much. I noted earlier that they don’t seal well with the attached cable, so I found that they constantly loosened while on a run and forced me to push the volume to the max in order to get some sound.

I should point out that the touch pad for accessing Google Assistant works OK when wet or sweaty, but not great. I tried it with both a bare hand and using a pair of smartphone-ready gloves with the little finger touch pad. On some attempts, the volume would adjust and Google Assistant would fire up, and then others I’d have to swipe again or tap and hold again, which isn’t something you want to have to worry about while on the go.

They could be good in a gym setting, though I’m not sure Google has ever really pushed these as fitness-ready.

5. Assistant confusion and touchpad sensitivity. I praised the heck out of Google Assistant above, but it’s not all good there. For the most part, things are straight forward, thanks to the touchpad in the right bud. You tap to pause or play, swipe to change volumes, double tap to get a readout of notifications and your day, or long-press to fire up Assistant.

Where I run into issues is when you get to having conversations or when the Assistant seems to miss notifications. For example, on multiple occasions I was having a Hangouts conversation with Tim that started off great. Then all of a sudden another message from Tim arrived and the Assistant told me that I had muted him for 30 minutes and would no longer hear his conversation. Umm, what? I didn’t tell it to do that. Not only that, but I couldn’t figure out a way to stop that silence or re-apply it in case I did actually wanted to mute someone. I also still can’t find any documentation on this feature from Google, how it works, why it applied itself, and how to turn it off or on.

On top of that, I found that notifications wouldn’t ping in my ear from time to time. By the time I realized that, I’d look at my phone and realize I’d like to hear notifications, only since they had piled up, the Assistant could no longer read them individually and would instead just say that Inbox had multiple there. That then means I’d have to pick up my phone and unlock it to see what the pile included.

The touchpad is a sensitive little guy too, if not inconsistent at the same time. Sometimes you’ll tap or double tap and it’ll recognize both. On other occasions, you might think you doubled tap, only it recognized that as a single tap, which then prompts you to tap again or double tap and then music is pausing and playing and your notifications aren’t playing and all hell is breaking loose.

You should also understand that because the pad is so sensitive, adjusting them in your ear, taking them off, or putting them on can also activate the pad. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken them off to put the Buds back in their case only to turn the music back on. That means you’ll cause unwanted pauses when adjusting the strings that never hold and almost any other time you might brush the right bud.

pixel buds review

6. Other notes:

  • They aren’t true wireless buds, which I’ve noted several times. I keep mentioning that because everyone else is making truly wireless buds, yet here is Google putting a rope cord between theirs and charging the same price, if not more, than everyone else who is truly wireless.
  • Changing songs requires a voice command, which is dumb. You can swipe forward and backward to change volume or tap to pause or play, but there isn’t a gesture on the touchpad to just change songs. Think about that.
  • In terms of design, the Pixel Buds are nice looking, if not a bit bulky when in-ear. I don’t think anyone is going to laugh at you like they would the Bose SoundSport Free wireless buds or Apple’s cigarette dongles, but they aren’t hiding either.

On the translation stuff

I didn’t test it! That’s silly, right? How could I not test the flagship demo feature of the Google Pixel Buds? Because, in my life, I haven’t been in a situation where I would need to use that feature. I lead a pretty boring life on most days. I apologize for not having done that. But you can certainly see Google demo it right here. Other reviews seem to suggest that it works, even if it does require your phone and the Translate app and can be a bit clunky.

Should you buy them?

I wouldn’t. Google sent me this pair to review and once they go back, I don’t see myself picking up another pair for personal use. The combination of the high price ($159), somewhat confusing Assistant experience, lack of simultaneous connected device support, and the fact that they aren’t really made for getting sweaty as hell, would steer me in other directions. Plus, the little things from the weird charging case and pairing experience, to the poor fit and that cable, just leave a lot to be desired.

I do like what the Assistant integration has brought here, especially because the future of headphones will be brighter with Assistant onboard, but yeah, for $160, it’s a tough sell.

Buy Google Pixel Buds:

Pixel Buds Review is a post from: Droid Life

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OnePlus 5T Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/12/07/oneplus-5t-review/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/12/07/oneplus-5t-review/#comments Thu, 07 Dec 2017 23:39:50 +0000 https://www.droid-life.com/?p=209432

Our OnePlus 5T review is here! Sorry it took so long, but you know, it’s cold in the northwest. We have beer to drink. For this latest and greatest from OnePlus, we tried to look for the differences in the OnePlus 5T vs. the regular OnePlus 5 (review) to see if we actually got an … Continued

OnePlus 5T Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Our OnePlus 5T review is here! Sorry it took so long, but you know, it’s cold in the northwest. We have beer to drink.

For this latest and greatest from OnePlus, we tried to look for the differences in the OnePlus 5T vs. the regular OnePlus 5 (review) to see if we actually got an upgrade this year. As you all know, with the OnePlus 3 (review) and OnePlus 3T (review), the upgrades there were subtle, so this is an important piece to this year’s story. Thankfully, I have nothing but positive things to say over the new display and camera vs. those on the 5.

The video review dives into more, but the takeaway is that after telling you to consider passing on the OnePlus 5 because of its non-2017 design and sub-par camera, I’m telling you the opposite here. The display on the 5T is quite good and meets the current low-bezel trend, the new dual camera setup is solid, I’m a huge fan of the rear fingerprint reader, the software is as quick as ever, and battery life continues to get better by the day as I’ve tested it. OnePlus really nailed this phone.

The OnePlus 5T can be purchased right here.

NOTE: The video says that the 8GB / 128GB model costs $529, and yes, I know that that is wrong. It’s too late to fix now. The 8GB model actually costs $559.

NOTE 2: No written review because we already wrote up the review for the OnePlus 5. The experiences are almost identical outside of the couple of changes that we dive well into in the video.

OnePlus 5T Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Razer Phone Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/11/22/razer-phone-review/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/11/22/razer-phone-review/#comments Wed, 22 Nov 2017 18:21:18 +0000 https://www.droid-life.com/?p=208769

When Razer acquired Nextbit, makers of the cloud-centric Robin device, it seemed inevitable that we would see the gaming-focused company launch a smartphone. We weren’t quite sure what to expect in terms of the overall package, but when the phone was unveiled earlier this month, many were pleasantly surprised with Razer’s offering. The Razer Phone … Continued

Razer Phone Review is a post from: Droid Life

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When Razer acquired Nextbit, makers of the cloud-centric Robin device, it seemed inevitable that we would see the gaming-focused company launch a smartphone. We weren’t quite sure what to expect in terms of the overall package, but when the phone was unveiled earlier this month, many were pleasantly surprised with Razer’s offering.

The Razer Phone comes with a solid spec list, an emphasis on mobile gaming, an audio experience that any audiophile can appreciate, as well as what seems to be a justified price. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Razer’s acquisition of Nextbit paid off quite well in terms of this initial launch, but let’s dive into the details to see just how this device stacks up against established Android manufacturers.

This is our Razer Phone review.

The Good


Specs

As I alluded to in the intro, the Razer Phone is no chump on specs, with Razer obviously taking the “spare no expense” expression quite seriously. The device features a 5.7″ QHD IGZO LCD UltraMotion display (2560 x 1440, 120Hz refresh rate), Snapdragon 835 processor, 8GB RAM, 64GB storage (expandable supported), dual rear-facing cameras (12MP f/1.75 Wide + 13MP f/2.6), 4,000mAh battery with Quick Charge 4+, Dolby Atmos-branded dual front-facing speakers, NFC, fingerprint reader, and Android 7.1+ Nougat.

For a company’s first attempt at an Android smartphone, this is quite the impressive sheet. While I’m not giddy about dual camera setups (ex: Google does better with just one camera) or even 8GB RAM, Razer actually did something innovative with regard to specs, which is the LCD display capable of a 120Hz refresh rate. That’s something we’re not seeing from any other maker at the moment, so for Razer to bring it on their first attempt, well, that’s very welcomed.

While you won’t find a headphone jack or water resistance, the price for all of this is $699, which seems incredibly reasonable if high-end mobile gaming and audio performance is what you’re concerned about.

Display

Considering such a fuss was made about this display during Razer’s unveiling, I attempted to pay special attention to it during my review process. From what I’ve found, the 5.7″ QHD IGZO LCD display is great, offering sharp contrast, an accurate portrayal of colors, plenty of brightness whether you’re indoor or outdoor, and I do think the 120Hz refresh rate ability does play a factor into the overall experience.

Inside of the settings menu, the user can select which refresh rate they want the display to run at. You can opt between 60Hz, 90Hz, and 120Hz. Your typical Android display has a refresh rate of 60Hz (Galaxy S8, Pixel 2 XL, etc.), so for these options to be available, we’re talking an instant upgrade in user customization.

In case you aren’t familiar with refresh rate, it’s a number based on how quickly a display changes the image on screen. A lot of high-end computer monitors have a 144Hz refresh rate, while pro gamers can use monitors with up to a 240Hz refresh rate. Essentially, higher equals better (there is argument out there that anything over 100Hz isn’t necessary), but Razer is making this a new spec in the Android industry that we once never concerned ourselves with. We used to bicker about resolution (FHD vs. QHD), but refresh rate could be the next area of improvement for all mobile display makers. It plays directly into VR implementations, and with Google and Samsung battling it out in that arena, maybe we could see more emphasis placed on refresh rate.

As for Razer Phone, you do notice a change in the scrolling effect when toggling between 60Hz and 120Hz. When cranked up, there is less stutter and animations are very fluid. When playing mobile games, gameplay also looked and felt better, which I’ll never argue against. For those interested in overall brightness, I never had an issue when in direct sunlight with the screen cranked up to 100%, but I will say that the range of brightness isn’t the greatest. What I mean is, when you’re sliding from 25% to 75%, you don’t see a massive difference, but I can at least confirm that it gets pretty bright when set to 100%.

I like this display and I really like that Razer decided to offer something different from everyone else.

Performance

Thanks to a Snapdragon 835, 8GB RAM, plus that 120Hz refresh rate, everything you do on this phone seems smooth. Whether you’re playing games, diving in and out of apps, or scrolling through a webpage, it’s all good. Also aiding this experience is a pretty barebones stock Android experience, but I’ll get into that shortly.

Provided this phone was made to handle mobile games extremely well, I went and downloaded a lot of my favorite titles. Just to give you some examples of what I played, I used Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, Stranger Things: The Game, Aftermath XHD, Hellraid: The Escape, and I also played a few of the preloaded titles that come with the phone – Gear Club and World of Tanks. Of course, all of the games played very well and I didn’t come across any issues.

Topping off the experience is Razer’s Game Booster app, which comes in quite handy for those who really plan on putting in some hours of gaming. With this app, you can select customizable settings for individual game titles. The app allows you to set CPU clock speeds, refresh rates, whether you receive notifications when in fullscreen, as well as an anti-aliasing toggle. For games like Stranger Things, where it’s a pretty pixelated game, you don’t need massive performance, so throttling down your CPU and refresh rate can extend your battery life while playing. Games like Gear Club want all of your juice, though, so setting your CPU and refresh rate to the max leads to the best performance.

Overall, I love playing mobile games on the Razer Phone and it’s my new benchmark for how the mobile gaming experience should be.

Software

The Razer Phone comes with Android 7.1+ out of the box, with no custom OEM skin atop it. This makes for a very familiar experience, but as a cherry on top, every phone is shipped with Nova Launcher Prime as its default launcher. Talk about really trying to make the Android fanboys happy, am I right? With Nova Launcher, you can customize basically all aspects of your home screen and beyond, complete with custom icon pack support and more. With that being said, now would be a good time to brush up on the icon packs we think are hot.

Going beyond just your launcher, Razer built in a theme manager for the software, which makes customizing the phone’s color scheme and even notification sounds a breeze. When a theme is applied, and there’s plenty to choose from, you’ll have a custom-colored notification pulldown, calculator, phone app, as well as ringtones and alarm sounds. It’s a snazzy effort on Razer’s part, one that I appreciate as someone who gets bored with the same ol’ white UI on most phones.

While the software is pretty barebones, it doesn’t really lack anything. Inside the settings, you’ll find access to Smart Lock, Gestures (quick unlock to Camera), storage management settings, an Ambient Display mode for incoming notifications, Night Light, and other settings. It’s similar to the approach taken by OnePlus, where they give you all of the essentials, then toss in a few extras that make it a more customizable experience. For me, that’s fine, because when we start having features piled on top of features, it’s easy for many things to get lost deep inside of the Settings menu.

It would have been nice to see the Razer Phone launch with Android 8.0 Oreo, too, only because it’s already November and that means this device launches behind the Android update schedule, if that makes sense. On the plus, this will be a good test to see how well Razer intends to support the software on this phone. If we see Oreo come later this year or very early in 2018, that’s a good thing. If we somehow creep into February or March, though, that will be a bad sign and I wouldn’t blame anyone for being disappointed. We’ll just have to wait and see how that plays out.

Audio

On the frontside of the Razer Phone are dual Dolby Atmos speakers, both individually amplified for improved sound. Via the USB Type-C port, you can utilize the accompanied audio adapter with a THX certified DAC for your headphones.

To sum it up, the sound on this phone, whether it comes from the speakers or your headphones, is remarkable. The speakers get stupid loud and the sound when plugged in is rich and full. No other phone has offered this much audio goodness in a while, so it’s nice to have a player back in the game who is taking not just headphone sound quality, but external audio propulsion seriously, too. While LG has great audio via headphones with its Quad DAC, the Razer Phone takes it to another level with these external speakers, getting nearly as loud as my MacBook Pro, which is pretty impressive to me.

If I could make one tweak, though, it would be to have better control over the lows on the front speakers via the Dolby Atmos app. Inside this app, you can customize the EQ to suit your needs, but even in there, I can’t get quite as much bass as I’d desire coming from the speakers. They are very high and mid heavy, which is fine for the spine tingling guitar riffs I listen to, but I still want more bass.

Battery

In a world where it seems like the most we ever get from the high-end Android makers is 3,500mAh, Razer brought the heat in the Razer Phone’s battery department. The phone features a whopping 4,000mAh battery, capable of providing me with way more than a day’s worth of usage, even with heavy testing and gaming.

Each night, I hit the hay around 10:30-11PM. At that time, the Razer Phone would still show 40%+ of juice left, meaning I could easily leave it unplugged and pick up right where I left off without having to do my overnight charging routine. For screen on time, I’m getting my usual 4 hours, which is my typical day.

  

Now, you may also want to know if the display’s refresh rate ability has any affect on the battery. From what I can tell, that’s a “no,” and Razer specifically mentioned this during its press event. According to them and its work with Qualcomm on the UltraMotion display, users should actually see “significant battery life improvement.” While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I saw improvements, what I did see was a battery that was getting me through lots of gaming without a ton of juice being used, so at the end of the day, I’m a happy user who still has plenty of battery life left.

  

Somewhere in the Middle


Hardware/Design

The Razer Phone is an absolute tank, being one of the heaviest phones I’ve ever had in my pocket. It weighs in at nearly 200 grams, compared to the Galaxy S8+ at 173g, Pixel 2 XL at 175g, and the LG V30 at 158g. The Razer Phone is large in-hand, heavy, and frankly, kinda boring to look at. While I appreciate its tankiness at times, when it comes to leaving the house with it, it can be kinda daunting depending on the type of pants I’m wearing. I know that’s weird to read, but bear with me here.

Let’s think about a quick comparison. The Razer Phone is thicker, wider, and taller than the Pixel 2 XL, but it has a smaller display. I don’t know if you’ve been following us much over 2017, but we have really taken a liking to smartphone design as of late, with the Razer Phone taking the exact opposite approach to every other OEM.

Essentially, we have a murdered out, beefed up Nextbit Robin, which to me, isn’t the best smartphone design to begin with. All corners are complete right angles, it only comes in black (sorry, that’s boring), and the volume button layout paired with a mushy power/fingerprint reader button has had me wishing to be on another phone many a time. I’m sorry, but I’m just not a fan of this design and I think Razer is capable of something a bit better.

 

Now, with my pickiness out of the way, I will say that when it comes to just sitting on the couch, playing games and watching a YouTube video, the phone and its design is really good. It’s easy to hold while in landscape, but in portrait, two hands is almost always required. Considering I do plenty of outdoor activities, I don’t always have two hands available, so I’ve even found myself ignoring an incoming notification because I don’t feel like fumbling my dog leashes and using two hands to respond to something. What I’m saying is, one-handed operation is not easy on this device.

I know it may sound like all I’ve said is negative, but that’s sort of the point. While I don’t necessarily appreciate a phone that feels/looks like a brick in and out of my pocket, I know others might. With this larger size, you’re getting a dual speaker setup and big battery. For some, that may outweigh the bulkiness of this phone, and that’s completely understandable.

The Not-so-Good

Camera

When I test out a phone with a stock Android experience, I never equate that to mean they’ve stripped the camera of all of its modes, too. Sadly, that’s exactly what Razer has done, leaving you with nothing more than a point and shoot experience that isn’t even all that great. And by stripped experience, I’m dead serious. While you’d typically find a few different shooting modes, such as Panorama, Photo Sphere, or maybe even a Portrait mode, the Razer Phone features none of that. You open the camera, shoot either a photo or video, and that’s it. It’s an extremely lacking experience, and for a company that opted for the marquee spec of dual rear-facing shooters, I couldn’t be more disappointed.

Even inside of the settings menu for the camera, the only options you’ll find are for resolutions and shutter sounds. Really, I know you might be having a hard time believing this, but it’s true. In terms of shooting, the only thing you can do is toggle your flash and the HDR mode, which consistently needs to be enabled because the camera handles many lighting environments poorly. I know I’ve discussed this before, but why are companies continuing the effort of pushing for dual cameras when they can’t even get one right?

  

When met with ideal conditions, I was able to capture a few good shots. I won’t sit here and tell you the shooter itself is god awful, but the overall experience leaves so much to be desired. On the bright side, much of what I’m talking about can be changed via an update to Razer’s camera app. All of those modes I mentioned are done purely on the software side, so there’s no reason Razer can’t address this. As of right now, though, there’s no telling if they will.

Update: An important post was made by Razer’s CEO on Facebook this week, one I missed while writing this review. In the post, Min-Liang Tan specifically mentions that more modes are coming soon and that the Razer Phone’s camera is basically a work in progress. Here’s what he said.

The next major camera app release will add some new features like the new instazoom button. This will help users immediately jump to the optimal zoom with the telephoto lens. This feature was requested by nearly all reviewers. We will very likely be adding 4x slo motion recording as well.

Features like portrait mode, 60 fps video, and additional speed improvements will be coming in late Q1 with our Oreo update. We are still investigating additional performance / speed improvements for this time frame as well.

As I said, a lot of this camera experience can be improved via software, but we’ll have to wait for these updates to see if there’s any noticeable improvement in photo quality.

Here are a few samples, resized, but not edited in any other way.

  

HDR vs. no HDR

 

Missing a Few Things

The Razer Phone isn’t missing much, but there are just a few things I’d have loved to see in this $699 smartphone. For starters, water resistance would be cool. Now, I’m not docking points or anything from this phone because it doesn’t have it, I’m just saying that it would be cool if it did. Also, this phone is certainly large enough for a 3.5mm headphone jack. I don’t know why Razer decided to exclude it, but seriously, there’s plenty of room. On the other hand, I do appreciate that they included a fancy dongle with its own DAC to help me get over the fact that left out the 3.5mm port. Lastly, and I know this is nitpicking, but I really would have appreciated Oreo to launch with this phone. As I’ve stated, we aren’t entirely sure how well this phone is going to be supported by Razer, so to desperately want an update hours after getting it into my hands is pretty depressing.

Other Notes


  • Girlfriend Impressions – “The phone feels very premium. It’s a little heavy and a little too big, but I really like how the volume buttons and the home button are pretty flush with the design of the phone. I feel like the fingerprint reader on the side would be hard to get used to, but it’s practical. And I really like this (*points to the Razer logo on the back*).”
  • Update Expectancy – Since this is Razer’s first attempt at an Android phone, we don’t yet know what to expect in the update department. As I previously mentioned, how Razer handles the inevitable update to Oreo will be very telling. Will it be later this year (best case scenario) or some point in early 2018? All I can say is, the sooner the better, obviously.

Availability and Price


The Razer Phone is priced at $699, available online via Razer’s website as well as select Razer retail stores. Additionally, the phone is sold online and in-store exclusively at Microsoft Stores. For carriers, the device is sold GSM unlocked, so AT&T, T-Mobile, and other GSM networks will work fine. You won’t find support for Verizon or Sprint, though. Sorry.

The question is, is this phone worth $699? To me, I’d say so. While I’m not the hugest fan of the overall design, you might be. If you do like your phones on the larger side, this device sure does offer a lot. You’ve got the nice display, 8GB RAM, a good software experience, plus a massive battery. Honestly, I could see a lot of folks (mobile gamers, especially) flocking to this phone. If Razer does something about that camera, too, then we’re really in business.

Buy Online

Videos


Unboxing

15+ Tips and Tricks

Gallery


 

The Verdict


While the hardware has left me wanting to go to a smaller phone, I can’t get over the performance and battery life I’ve seen. Playing games and just scrolling through the phone has been very smooth, so overall, I’ve had a positive experience.

While it’s very lacking in the camera department, I think it’s possible that Razer could push a few improvements via updates (like new shooting modes), and really, that’s the only true issue I have with the phone. If the camera was better, I wouldn’t have any issues with this being my daily driver, but because things like the Pixel 2 exist, with the best mobile camera you can ask for, and a cheaper $649 price tag, it’s hard to say that the Razer Phone is a better buy at this time. The Razer Phone has a lot of compelling features, but for me, I value the camera experience too much to recommend it to anyone who likes taking a lot of photos.

You might’ve already seen this, but Kellen has spoken about 2017 being a really good year for hardware. That’s my exact belief. Is there really a bad choice this year for flagships? Not really, and for this being Razer’s first effort, I think they did very well. Here’s hoping it’s not the only Android phone we ever see from the company.

Razer Phone Review is a post from: Droid Life

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LG V30 Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/10/31/lg-v30-review/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/10/31/lg-v30-review/#comments Tue, 31 Oct 2017 20:25:32 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=207702

Since the V10, we have referred to LG’s V series as the “stuff and things” lineup. The reason for this is LG’s inclusion of pretty much everything you can pack into a smartphone. There were secondary displays, dual selfie cameras, high-end DACs to please the audiophiles, Dura Guard steel frames and rubber textures, and plenty … Continued

LG V30 Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Since the V10, we have referred to LG’s V series as the “stuff and things” lineup. The reason for this is LG’s inclusion of pretty much everything you can pack into a smartphone. There were secondary displays, dual selfie cameras, high-end DACs to please the audiophiles, Dura Guard steel frames and rubber textures, and plenty more. There seemed to be everything, so calling it stuff and things made sense to us and I must insist that it was never meant as a negative.

For the V30, not much has changed in terms of what’s being included and highlighted, but once you see this phone in person and hold it in your hand, all would-be jokes go right out the door. As you’ll see, we can’t possibly speak ill of this device, even if it’s the epitome of stuff and things.

What has us so in love with the V30, you may ask? Let’s find out.

This is our LG V30 review.


The Good

Specs

Basically matching all other 2017 flagships, the V30 ships with a great list of specs. The phone features a 6″ Quad HD+ FullVision POLED  display (2880×1440, 18:9, 538ppi), Snapdragon 835 processor, 64GB (V30) / 128GB (V30+) of storage, expandable storage with support up to 2TB, 4GB RAM, 16MP (f/1.6, 71°) + 13MP wide-angle (f/1.9, 120°) rear-facing cameras, 3300mAh non-removable battery (wireless charging supported), an IP68 rating, Bluetooth 5.0, fingerprint reader, and Android 7.1.2 “Nougat.”

This phone has all of the 2017 specifications you’d expect from a flagship device, but you’ll notice that there is no secondary ticker display, once a staple for the V series, as well as no dual selfie cameras. Thank you, LG, for realizing that is completely unnecessary for most people.

Basically, what you have here is a solid phone, equipped with everything you should need, with no extra “gimmicky” add-ons. You could even call this barebones compared to past V devices, but this device is far from barebones.

Hardware and Design

The most striking change from last year’s V20 to this year’s V30 is the overall design. This year’s model is somewhat breathtaking, proving that LG can stand right alongside Samsung, Apple, and other smartphone makers in the hardware design department. It has the smooth glass on back and front, cool to the touch metal around its edges, plus the front FullVision display that has hardly any bezel surrounding it. Believe me, when you throw this thing on the table, you’ll have plenty of folks asking about it. It’s a real head turner.

lg v30 review

Even with the 6″ display, the lack of bezels makes the device easy to hold in one hand. Way back when, some folks would be turned off by the idea of a phablet, but with hardware looking the way it does now, the category itself seems pretty dead. I mean, here we are with massive displays and we’re not complaining whatsoever because fitting them in our pocket is no longer a seam ripper.

Looking at the broader picture, the LG G6 from earlier this year was a great step forward in the design department for LG, but the V30 puts that device to shame in terms of hardware. You may have already heard Kellen and I say this on the Droid Life Show or Twitter, but the V30 is LG’s best hardware yet. If this is the road it continues to travel on in 2018, we’re stoked.

Display

The LG V30’s display is good. There, I said it and you won’t hear any complaints or hyperbole from me. This 6″ POLED display, basically the same you’ll find in the Pixel 2 XL, is really nice. While you will see the same “blue tint” effect when looking at the display from an angle, any type of screen burn-in is something I have yet to really come across in a noticeable way.

If you need the complete spec rundown on this thing, you have a 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio, with QHD+ resolution (2880×1440) equating to a PPI of 538. If you want to do your mobile VR stuff on here, and this thing is Daydream compatible, you should be good.

From what I can tell, the first thing I noticed when switching to the V30 from the smaller Pixel 2 is the color saturation. I don’t know anymore if this is a good thing or bad thing, but to my eye, the colors really do seem to pop off the screen in some cases. Under the settings menu, resolution tweaks can be made (Low, Medium, High), as well as profiles for “Screen Color.” In here, there are options for movies, photos, web browsing, and even a custom setting that lets you customize RGB values and color temperature. My hunch is that most normal buyers won’t be diving into here, but it’s there for those who want it.

lg v30 review

With Google’s display drama happening, I’m not quite comfortable on asserting my opinion on whether loads of saturation is awesome, but for the most part, I do enjoy the way this display looks. The videos I watch look good and the games I play look good. Does anything else really matter? To me, they don’t, because I’m not on here editing photos in Lightroom or compiling footage in Final Cut for a video review. I’m here playing games, scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, and that’s about it. For my needs, this display suits me very well and I haven’t come across any deal breaker OLED issues that others have talked about.

To sum up the display, if you are actually worried that it’s bad or are on the fence because you just don’t know, I’m fine in telling you that it looks completely fine to my eyes.

Camera

The back of the LG V30 sports two cameras, a 16MP (f/1.6, 71°, OIS) shooter and a 13MP wide-angle (f/1.9, 120°) shooter. It’s a similar setup to the one found on the G6 from earlier this year, which we found to be very versatile. From my time with this phone, I’d say these are very good cameras, probably LG’s best. Having used all of this year’s great smartphone cameras, it’s sort of a tossup with which one you would prefer, because each really does certain things very well.

  

For the LG V30, having the ability to quickly switch between a standard and wide-angle shot can be very useful, as well as the loads of software tweaks LG throws in. There is a Manual photo and video mode, Cine Video mode, Time Lapse, Slo-mo, Food, 360 Panorama, plus a whole lot more. LG really markets the V30 as having one of the best cameras out there, and for the most part, I wouldn’t exactly argue that.

One mode in particular that LG touts quite highly is the Cine Video mode. With it, you dive into a video shoot, with loads of different preset filters at your disposal. If you’re shooting a scene at night, you can opt for the Thriller setting or Noir, but if you’re in daylight, you can opt for something a bit happier looking such as Scenery and Romantic Comedy. Each setting can be tweaked with a vignette and strength dial, but also, LG built in a really helpful zoom feature that steadies any wide and tight adjustments you make while filming. If shooting a few home-made movies is on your agenda, Cine Video is pretty slick.

  

While I think the Pixel 2 is bit better at capturing the most life-like shots, the V30’s software versatility makes it much more useful in some use cases. For example, I can’t control shutter speed with the Google Camera app for longer or shorter exposures. I love tinkering with things like this, so having that extra functionality is nice. Basically, the Pixel 2 is probably the best point and shoot camera out there, but if you want something with a bit more depth, the V30 is a great choice.

If you missed our flagship camera shootout, go check that out here.

Here are some samples.

 

Battery

Inside the V30 is a non-removable 3,300mAh battery, which may sound kinda small for this phone’s dimensions, but battery life has been great for me. My typical day is about 7:30AM to 11PM or so, and on each day, I was making it through all of that with 4+ hours of screen on time. That’s basically my average, so the fact that I wasn’t having to find a charger during the day is a very good sign.

If you do need more juice, the phone support both wireless charging and Quick Charging, so you can get plenty of juice in no time at all.

 

 

That Quad DAC, Tho

Inside every smartphone you will find a DAC, short for digital-to-analog converter. On the V30, LG kicks it up a notch, equipping an additional DAC (four DACs actually, hence the “quad”) chip, built in to help provide a better listening experience when you’re cranking the tunes.

What does this thing even do, you ask? Well, according to LG, this Quad DAC should provide cleaner sound, but the issue is, you will only benefit from it should you be plugged in with headphones. It doesn’t work wirelessly over Bluetooth and the single bottom-firing speaker surely isn’t making use of this fancy audio tech.

 

Inside of the settings menu under the Sound category, you’ll see a simple On/Off switch for the Quad DAC. When enabled (defaults to On when headphones are plugged in), there are more settings to tweak, such as options for a digital filter (changes pre and post-ringing of the impulse response), sound presets (bass, enhanced, live, etc.), and balancers for right and left. From my testing, the best setup for a “clean” sound is the filter set to “Sharp,” the preset dialed in at “Enhanced,” then your balance cranked to the right on both sides.

The point is, if you take your music listening seriously, then the V30 will surely make you happy. You won’t find more control over what you’re hearing than you will on this phone.

Somewhere in the Middle


Software and Performance

The V30 is a good indication that LG is still trying to figure out what it wants to do with its software. While the hardware is fantastic, that really is only a portion of the overall experience, and sadly, the software isn’t quite as awesome. Is it really, really bad? By no means at all, but it still needs some work.

  

Last year on the G5 and V20, things were pretty rough with LG’s custom skin, but things are getting better. The G6 had a much improved skin, performing well in day-to-day usage. From my time, the V30 builds upon that, and really, I’d even say it’s completely usable if you’re fine with running a custom launcher and some icon packs. If it’s just the color of the UI you don’t like, LG does offer a theme option, but beware, it’s not available on all carrier variants from what we can tell. It works great on my AT&T unit, though.

  

For the first few days, the performance of the device seemed great, but after that, things did slow down from time to time when diving in and out of apps. There’s that weird sluggish, stutter effect you feel when opening apps or closing them that a quick reboot tends to fix. This just isn’t an issue I have on phones like the Pixel 2, so when switching from buttery smooth Android to a custom skin, it has been sort of frustrating.

There are also little tweaks to the pre-installed launcher that I’m not a huge fan of. For example, the launcher defaults to a layout that has no app drawer. Thankfully, you can enable one in the settings. Another example is folders. When you add more than 9 icons to a folder, it switches to pages, instead of just making the folder window bigger. It’s a little thing, yet I just don’t care for it, so I found myself dying to install Nova Launcher as quickly as possible.

Not all of LG’s tweaks are bad, though. This phone still has KnockOn, which lets you tap on the display to turn it on and off, as well as a GIF Capture mode that lets you quickly make your own GIFs. For example, if you see an Instagram post that would be great as a GIF, you can select that portion of the screen via the Capture+ tool in the notification pulldown, hit the record button, then share the GIF to wherever you’d like. It’s a fun, easy to use tool for all of us awesomely-hip millennials.

Now, because this phone launched later in the year, my hope is that a timely upgrade to Android 8.0+ “Oreo” can really help a few of these small things. As for LG and its software upgrade timeline, we have no clue when Oreo may come for the V30, but I think it may be safe to assume it shouldn’t take too long. Last year, the V20 launched with Nougat (the first non-Google device to launch with it), so it’s kind of a downer LG didn’t shoot to do the same thing on the V30. It’s not the end of the world, but waiting for big updates is never something an Android user wants to worry about.

lg v30 review

Other Notes

  • It Has a Headphone Jack – Is it safe to say that LG will be the last OEM to ditch headphone jacks? I could definitely see Samsung ditching them for the Galaxy S9, so I guess time will tell. For now, they’re alive and well on the LG V30, which is still a plus in my book.
  • Girlfriend Impressions – “This is nice. I like that the back is really shiny. Is this stock Android? It’s not? Oh, that’s too bad.”
  • External Speaker – The single, bottom-firing speaker isn’t terrible, but it’s not great. It’s pretty tinny at times, really pumping out the mids and highs with few noticeable lows, but it’s comparable to basically all other phones that sport a similar setup. Coming from a Pixel 2 with dual front-facing speakers, it’s tough to compare in terms of overall loudness.

Availability and Price

The LG V30 is purchasable through a number of US carriers and retailers, with an unlocked model still to come. The average full retail price is about $820, depending on where you buy it from. I will take this time to say that I really hate that prices differ from place to place, but hey, that’s the world we live in. The phone is available through Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular, Best Buy, and B&H. The unlocked model should be coming to Amazon and LG’s own website soon, so we’ll keep you posted on that.

All I can say is, I’m glad LG didn’t go too crazy and charge over $900 for this device. We already have Samsung and Google competing in that area, and if LG thought they could do the same, they’d be wrong. LG’s marketing game would need to be cranked up a few notches if they intended to do that, so for now, let’s be thankful this awesome phone is more affordable than some others.

Videos


Unboxing

First 10 Things to Do

20+ Tips and Tricks


Gallery

 


The Verdict

This verdict would be best summed up by asking a simple question: Should you buy this phone? The answer is “Yes,” if not having purely stock Android doesn’t bother you at all. Everything else about the device is pretty spot on, and when you look at the whole package, plus a reasonable $800+ price, that’s not bad at all.

As I’ve said, this is LG’s best phone yet, and while it may resemble a lot of other devices on the market, it really is quite an enjoyable smartphone experience that you just can’t deny. The V10 and V20 were devices I wasn’t even interested in using, but for the V30 to just bust down the doors and impress me this much, that’s really saying something.

Go check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

LG V30 Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/10/20/pixel-2-review-pixel-2-xl/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/10/20/pixel-2-review-pixel-2-xl/#comments Fri, 20 Oct 2017 15:11:14 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=207313

Following the apparent success of last year’s Pixel and Pixel XL, Google is back, this time with Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. As you would imagine, given these are Google flagship devices, both of these phones were leaked and reported on for months ahead of the official unveiling, but thankfully, they really do live … Continued

Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Following the apparent success of last year’s Pixel and Pixel XL, Google is back, this time with Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. As you would imagine, given these are Google flagship devices, both of these phones were leaked and reported on for months ahead of the official unveiling, but thankfully, they really do live up to the hype.

Both feature a fantastic camera, great build quality, plus a smooth software experience that you really can’t find anywhere else. Now, are either of these phones good enough to top the best from Samsung, LG, and HTC? The competition is high this year, but so far, it’s looking pretty good for Google and we’ve still got a couple more months until Phone of the Year voting begins.

This is our Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL review.


The Good

Specifications

With exception to the overall in-hand size, display, and battery size, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 pack the same specs (official specs list), including a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB RAM, 12MP rear-facing camera, IP67 water and dust resistance, and rear-facing fingerprint reader. Other specs include Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, USB Type-C, dual front-facing speakers, starting base storage of 64GB, 8MP front-facing camera, and Android 8.0 “Oreo” straight out of the box.

For the Pixel 2, its 5-inch AMOLED display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (441ppi), while the Pixel 2 XL features a 6-inch POLED QHD (2880×1440, 538ppi) display. The Pixel 2 battery is 2700mAh and the Pixel 2 XL battery is sized at 3520mAh.

Sure, these new Pixel phones may not have some silly amount of RAM or dual cameras, but these phones feel like the first complete smartphone packages from Google. There really doesn’t seem to be anything missing, with a few exceptions that we have listed in this review below. However, Google has delivered water resistance, hardware that feels oh so good in-hand, plus dual front-facing speakers that everyone should enjoy.

pixel 2 xl review

Software

One of the main reasons anyone would want a phone from Google is the software, I would hope. You’re getting the latest build of Android, Oreo, right out of the box, 3 years worth of major OS updates in a timely manner straight from Google, and no skin that makes your phone feel sluggish and janky. It really is something to love.

Over the course of the past week that I have used the Pixel 2, I have forgotten about all other OEM skins and now all I ever want is Google’s custom Pixel experience. The software is smart and damn smooth. For the most part, you’re getting a minimal, yet feature-rich experience, with Google building custom tweaks on top of AOSP. Essentially, it’s like what Motorola was doing for a bit, adding minimal changes and software enhancements on top of a pretty plain OS. On the Pixel 2, Google nails this, providing helpful features on top of a Oreo.

pixel 2 software review

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL feature special things like Ambient Display (now with an always-on mode), a Night Light mode, Active Edge for quickly accessing Google Assistant, a revamped Pixel Launcher, intelligent theming whenever you change from a light to dark-colored wallpaper, Now Playing that automatically identifies songs playing in the background of your environment, as well as a polished Picture-in-Picture mode for select applications (YouTube, Google Maps, etc.).

pixel 2 software review

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL also come preloaded with the first iteration of Google Lens, which takes your existing photos, then basically runs a background check on them to deliver information straight from Google Search. For example, Google Lens can recognize dog breeds in a photo, types of trees, or landmarks. It’s pretty cool, but I feel as if I have little use for it in my daily life. Maybe if I was traveling abroad or something like that, it could be very helpful at identifying certain things.

pixel 2 software review pixel 2 software review pixel 2 software review

Another important aspect of the new Pixel phones is Google Assistant. Accessible via the same long press of the home button or squeezing the sides of your phone with Active Edge, Assistant is becoming a very powerful tool. I truly thought Active Edge would be gimmicky, but it has surprised me. While it doesn’t do much, having quick access to Assistant is nice, plus it can silence your device if you have an incoming call. I think Google could incorporate a few more features to make it really, really useful, but this is a good start and I actually enjoy using it.

pixel 2 software review pixel 2 software review pixel 2 software review

To put this simply, the Pixel 2’s software is the most refined feeling version of Android I think I’ve ever used. As I said, it’s smart, completely smooth and free of stutters, and there’s something about it that just looks and feels cool. You don’t have to worry about swapping themes or icons, because Google kindly allows for all of that natively in the OS and there’s plenty of fun features to play with because this isn’t some barebones AOSP build. This is a custom software experience built atop AOSP, and frankly, I don’t know if I could use anything else after this.

pixel 2 review

Hardware and Design

Pixel 2 (Tim)

Obviously, the first big difference you’ll see with the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL is the size and look of the devices. Unlike last year, the Pixel 2 isn’t just a smaller version of the 2 XL, and I can still say that I’m bummed about that move by Google. We have two completely different hardware designs going on here. Last year, I enjoyed having the option between a big and small version of the hardware I liked. With the Pixel 2, it’s much different from the 2 XL, with massive bezels holding dual front-facing speakers and a squared 5-inch FHD display. The Pixel 2 XL has a bigger 6-inch QHD display with rounded corners, plus very minimal bezel, similar looking to the LG V30.

At first, I really didn’t think I’d care for a phone with such large bezels. After all, I’ve been using the Galaxy S8, Galaxy Note 8, and LG V30, all of which have very minimal bezel. Coming from those phones, with rounded corner displays and glass all over the place, I didn’t quite know what to expect with the Pixel 2. As I began to the use the device naturally, I started to realize that bezels are not my enemy. In fact, it’s quite nice having somewhere to really hold the device when I’m playing a game or watching a video. Couple that with the huge, loud front-facing speakers and you have yourself quite the pocket-sized entertainment system. This isn’t to say I’d prefer the Pixel 2 not have smaller bezels, because I would, but I don’t want to get hung up on something I can’t change.

Point being, the Pixel 2 feels great in-hand, with a solid weight to it for how small the phone is, a brushed metallic backside that feels really nice to hold, and a perfectly placed fingerprint reader that makes me really wonder what Samsung was thinking this year on the Galaxy S8 and Note 8. The Pixel 2’s hardware just feels good and the bezels have grown on me. What can I say, I’m adaptable, I guess.

pixel 2 review

Pixel 2 XL (Kellen)

While Tim got stuck with the 2015-design Pixel 2, I did have the luxury of using the bigger, more modern Pixel 2 XL. Is it a beacon of beauty? Well, it’s no Galaxy S8 or V30, but it’s not bad! In fact, it’s mostly a joy to look at.

The bezel is minimal, just not on par with those two phones I just mentioned. So if you were looking for that full edge-to-edge design of say the Note 8, you won’t quite get that here. It does have a really nice curve to the top glass, though, a curve that almost adds this bubble effect when you look at the phone from a profile view. That subtle curve also adds a roundness where front and back meet the sides of the phone, since the back plate curves as well, leaving you without much of a sharp edge anywhere.

For sporting a 6-inch display, I’d point out that it doesn’t feel like a monstrosity in hand. That 6-inch display is encased by a metal body that is similar in size to the Nexus 6P, a phone with a smaller 5.7-inch display. So you can see that Google was able to go bigger in the display department without going, well, too big. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a very big phone and only slightly shorter than the Note 8. Keep that in mind.

Add in the front stereo speakers, a playful color-blocked combination of glass and metal on the back, and the Pixel 2 XL ticks the boxes for a phone in 2017. Not only that, it’s Google’s unique flavor of smartphone hardware that isn’t just another all glass and metal body combination. I like options.

Camera

Last year, Google really outdid themselves with the quality of photos and video the original Pixel and Pixel XL were able to take. I mean, seriously, everything before the Nexus 6P and 5X were pretty bad, but the company has only gotten better at delivering a solid shooter. This year, it’s like falling in love all over again, with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL both able to take stunning photos in all sorts of conditions, and we have no beef with DxOMark ranking this as the best smartphone camera currently on the market.

To recap, both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL use the same 12.2MP camera (f/1.8, 1.4um, OIS, EIS, PDAF, LAF). There isn’t a dual camera setup here like in most other top smartphones, yet that hasn’t held the camera back at all, since Google seems to really be finding a groove in how its phones process pictures. They might be the best in the business at it right now. Let’s also not forget that each phone has Google’s first custom chip inside called the Pixel Visual Core. This is an image processing unit that isn’t even turned on at this point, but will offer 3rd party camera systems access to Google’s HDR+ magic, as well as new future camera features, once it goes live.

To me, what makes this a special camera is its ability to really capture the same scene your eyes see. A lot of the time, you’ll have phones oversaturate or overexpose a scene, but from my experience on the Pixel 2, that just isn’t the case. In our recent camera shootout (Pixel 2 vs. V30 vs. Galaxy Note 8), you could actually tell that the Pixel 2’s shots were somewhat darker than the others, but in reality, that was much more close to reality than what the other phones were showing. Greens aren’t looking neon, purples aren’t on the verge of turning pink, and autumn leaves are just bursting with vibrance. Seriously, I could take pictures on the Pixel 2 all day and never get tired of it.

pixel 2 camera review pixel 2 camera review pixel 2 camera review

Another area we take seriously is the reaction time between us pressing the shutter and a picture being taken. Is there a delay? Does the camera stutter? For the Pixel 2, the answers are no and no. As soon as you launch the camera app, it is quick to focus on whatever is in front of you or whatever you tap on, then the shot is ready to be taken. As soon as the shutter button is pressed, the photo is snapped and you’re ready to shoot another. If you’re shooting pictures of a dog or child, this comes in handy when getting just that right moment to save forever.

For the software, Google has included Slow Motion (max of 240FPS), panorama, Photo Sphere, and Portrait modes. While all of this works just fine and dandy, I do wish Google incorporated a “Pro” mode or something with a bit more control over certain levels. This is something all the other OEMs are doing, such as LG and Samsung. The piece I really want is a shutter speed slider, which would allow for longer or shorter exposures for certain lighting tricks I like to perform. Since this phone is so good at cutting down noise in low lighting conditions, I really feel that a shutter speed dial could allow night time photographers to get some great shots of the sky. Maybe in the future Google could incorporate something like this. As for that new Portrait mode, well, it does work. I’m not huge on going around and asking people if I can take their portrait, but it seems to work fine on my dogs, so long as I can get them to stand still for 2 seconds.

To sum up my week with the Pixel 2’s camera, it’s the best photo-taking experience I’ve had on a Google phone to date.

Here are a few sample shots from the Pixel 2.

pixel 2 camera review

pixel 2 camera review

 

 

Battery

Pixel 2 (Tim)

Over the course of the past week, I have been nothing but impressed with the Pixel 2’s battery. It’s on the small side, just 2700mAh, but it lasts all day long. Even with my constant playing of Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes and taking pictures all over the place, I always have juice to spare at the end of the day.

pixel 2 battery life pixel 2 battery life pixel 2 battery life

My typical day is 7:30AM to about 10 or 11PM and I haven’t had to plug it in during the day a single time. It’s been pretty awesome. Now, there’s no way I’m going to get two days of battery life from this phone, but getting through one day with no troubles is fine for me. Not only does the battery last a solid amount of time, but the phone does support Rapid Charging, so if you do find yourself having to charge, it won’t take you too long to get a good amount of charge back into your phone.

pixel 2 battery life pixel 2 battery life

Pixel 2 XL (Kellen)

Battery life on the Pixel 2 XL, with its 3520mAh cell, has been better than expected. Every year, Google tells us that they’ve built more battery efficiency into the newest Android version that ships on their new hardware, yet I’m not sure it ever lives up to the hype. This year, I think it might. Not once in testing (over a week now) have I had to plug the Pixel 2 XL in later in a day after taking it off the charger. That’s actually something to brag about.

pixel 2 xl battery life pixel 2 xl battery life pixel 2 xl battery life

I really hammered on this phone, too. For me, a typical day is 3-4 hours of screen on time, but I went extra hard on this phone for some reason and pushed it closer to 5-7 hours each day. Still, not once (just like Tim with the Pixel 2) did I reach for a charger before going to bed. While that’s not 2-day battery life, I’ll take it, especially knowing this phone can charge in a hurry if I need it to.

pixel 2 xl battery life pixel 2 xl battery life

We did a complete battery overview for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL that you can see here.

External Speakers

A Pixel phone with dual front-facing speakers? Dang, this is fancy! A feature I have been asking for, both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have dual speakers, perfect for bumping your tunes, watching YouTube videos, or playing mobile games. They aren’t on the bottom, meaning no covering the speaker by accident when holding the device, and they aren’t on the back, which was never good spot for them in the first place. Nope, you’ve got one on the chin and one on the forehead, perfectly placed for consuming audio goodness.

On the Pixel 2, the speakers are loud, but not overly bass-heavy, kind of like what you find on HTC devices. The Pixel 2 speakers are more catered to highs and mids, which is fine, but the sound can come across as a bit tinny depending on what you’re listening to. The point I can’t stress enough, though, is that they are loud. I’m afraid to go 100% volume because I don’t want the little things to explode. When just watching a YouTube video, I can listen comfortably at about 55-70% volume, which is a nice change from my experience on other devices from this year.

While the addition of these speakers appear to have resulted in Google having to intro a bit of bezels in the design, let’s just be thankful they were included in the first place, since neither of the new Pixels have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Don’t worry, we’ll talk about that, too.

pixel 2 review

Water Resistance

An IP67 rating is included on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, meaning no dust/sand will makes its way into the device and the phones can be submerged into at max of 1 meter (about 3 feet) of water for 30 minutes with theoretically no damage to the device. To put it simply, you can use these phones in the rain, have them around your kitchen sink, or maybe even take a few underwater photos in the pool with no harm to the device. For Pixels, this is huge, as no other Google phone has had this type of IP rating. It really makes them more versatile and durable phones.

It’s almost winter time for Portland, OR, so the fact I have water resistance on this phone is a huge bonus whenever I leave the house.

Somewhere in the Middle

Display

Pixel 2 (Tim)

The Pixel 2’s 5-inch FHD display is fine, but nothing to get overly excited about. It’s a basic AMOLED panel, with decent colors and support for Always On software. I’ve had a few people ask if colors seem muted or tinted at all, and thankfully, I haven’t had any complaints in that department, but if you’re comparing it to the display on the Galaxy S8 or LG V30, you will see big differences. The colors just don’t pop as much as they do on those other phones, even with the option for “Vivid Colors” enabled under the settings menu.

Part of me would want the Pixel 2 to have a super colorful panel to take better take advantage of its great camera, but at the end of the day, it gets the job done well.

pixel 2 review

As for the 1080p aspect, that has not been an issue for me in daily usage, with exception to virtual reality. I simply can’t, even on phones with high resolutions. I used to be somewhat resilient to the effects of motion sickness, but with age has come an inability to sit down with a VR headset for anymore than 10 minutes without feeling sick. This isn’t a knock on the Pixel 2’s screen, but I’m pointing out that with the lower resolution of this display, the problem seems compounded for me. Everyone is different in this department, though.

Pixel 2 XL (Kellen)

The 6-inch POLED display on the Pixel 2 XL has found itself smack dab in the middle of a controversy. Is the display flawed or is this just the way Google tuned it? Is this a bad OLED panel or will it be perfectly fine for most people? I tend to fall in the latter of both of those categories.

For those not familiar with what I’m talking about, you should go checkout our full write-up on supposed Pixel 2 XL display issues. There’s even a fun little video to show you what the complaints so far have been about.

The basics are this – when tilted to anything not directly in front of your face, you may notice a blue tint to the panel on the 2 XL. Additionally, the colors have been tuned by Google (purposely) to a more natural, muted profile, which shows even with the included Vivid colors option turned on. Others have suggested that the display shows a gritty or dirty appearance when in extreme low light, but I haven’t necessarily noticed that on mine.

pixel 2 xl review

So what’s the deal, is the panel bad or what? I don’t think so, no. I’m not about to tell you that this display is of Samsung quality, though, but I think most will find it to be just fine. The viewing angles are decent for the most part, and the color profile probably won’t offend you unless you are directly comparing it to a saturated Samsung AMOLED display. Also, Google says they may introduce additional color profiles if they receive enough feedback.

As a big display, it’s actually pretty fun to consume content on. Brightness levels are OK in good light and really nice in low light, thanks to the ability to drop to a really dark setting, which I appreciate as someone who uses their phones in the darkness often. I even find touch responsiveness to be solid.

In the end, the Pixel 2 XL probably isn’t going to blow your mind, yet it’ll do the job.

The Not-so-Good

Missing Pieces

While the Pixel 2 and 2 XL is what we would label as the first complete phone packages from Google, they are missing a few things, some of which people may even see as deal breakers. We don’t, though, just to be clear.

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL lack a headphone jack, wireless charging, and expandable storage. These are things we’ve talked about countless times, and if you’re pissed that Google didn’t include them, there are other phones out there that will suit your needs. While I’m not really upset or bummed at all with the non-inclusion of expandable storage or wireless charging, the lack of a headphone jack does somewhat irk me. I mean, looking at these phones, it’s not as if there wasn’t room for one, and since USB Type-C headphones aren’t included with the purchase, no company has really solved the problem that they created by removing the 3.5mm port. All we get is a dongle, easily losable, which would then need to be replaced for $9. I’m fine with using Bluetooth, but it’s not as if Google created some amazing alternative to a wired experience.

If you’re someone upset that Google excluded any of this, I’m sorry, but if you love everything else about these devices, then give them a try. I used to think no headphone jack was insane, but you just get used to it and adapt.

pixel 2 review

Availability and Pricing

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available unlocked via the Google Store or through Verizon as Google’s exclusive wireless carrier partner. Regardless of Verizon being the only carrier you can directly purchase these devices through, the phones have the necessary bands to work on virtually any carrier in the US. They’ll work on Project Fi, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or basically anywhere else. If you have a specific carrier you want to use the Pixel 2 on, but aren’t sure if they support it, hit up their customer service.

The Pixel 2 starts at $649 for 64GB, with a 128GB model available for $749. The Pixel 2 XL is priced at $849 for 64GB and $949 for 128GB. For colors, the Pixel 2 comes in either Just Black, Clearly White, or Kinda Blue. The Pixel 2 XL comes in two options: Black and White (aka Panda, aka Penguin) or Just Black.

The pricing of these phones confirms that we are long past the days of what we’d label as competitive pricing. Google wants to compete with Samsung and Apple, and really, these phones can do it. They have great hardware, insanely good cameras, and a software experience that you won’t ever get tired of. It’s a justified price for a solid Android experience.

Other Notes

  • Pixel Imprint – Not only is the fingerprint reader in a good spot on the backside, but it’s super fast. Last year’s Pixel was also quite good at reading fingerprints, so I’m happy to report that it’s the same story this year.
  • Active Edge – I wanted to quickly point out that I am a fan of squeezy sides. At first, I figured this was a gimmick, but it’s actually very useful to access Google Assistant when wearing gloves. Super handy to have onboard, but I do wish you could customize it to do more. Maybe in a future update?
  • Pixel 2 Girlfriend Impressions – “Wow, look at these bezels. Phone feels really nice in-hand, though. No headphone jack? That’s so stupid.”

Videos

Unboxing

First 10 Things to Do

Gallery

pixel 2 review

pixel 2 review pixel 2 review pixel 2 review

pixel 2 xl review

pixel 2 xl review pixel 2 xl review pixel 2 xl review

The Verdict

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL deliver smartphone packages that are arguably the best in all of Android. The cameras here are so good, the designs are refreshingly unique enough in a sea full of competitors’ phones built entirely out of fragile glass, their performance is as good as it gets, and the software experience is a tastefully improved Google version of stock Android that you know will always be two steps ahead of everyone else when it comes to updates. You also get choice in size of phone without giving up anything and access to whatever new Google features are introduced over the coming years.

These phones aren’t without flaws, but in our view, the flaws aren’t dealbreakers and the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are going to be hard to pass on. While they may not be the easiest to get, thanks to a ridiculous Verizon exclusive and frustratingly low levels of stock of select versions, closely watching Google Store availability is something you’ll have to get used to.

Do we recommend the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL? Absolutely.


Buy Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL:

Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Camera Shootout: Google Pixel 2 vs. LG V30 vs. Galaxy Note 8 https://www.droid-life.com/2017/10/17/camera-shootout-pixel-2-v30-galaxy-note-8/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/10/17/camera-shootout-pixel-2-v30-galaxy-note-8/#comments Tue, 17 Oct 2017 13:00:20 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=207028

It’s the battle of the 2017 heavyweights, smartphone camera style. If you haven’t yet noticed, it seems that all major 2017 launches from Android OEMs have great cameras included, and really, what you may think is best is very subjective at this point. However, with this post, I’ll simply share some shots I took on … Continued

Camera Shootout: Google Pixel 2 vs. LG V30 vs. Galaxy Note 8 is a post from: Droid Life

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It’s the battle of the 2017 heavyweights, smartphone camera style. If you haven’t yet noticed, it seems that all major 2017 launches from Android OEMs have great cameras included, and really, what you may think is best is very subjective at this point. However, with this post, I’ll simply share some shots I took on the Pixel 2, LG V30, and Galaxy Note 8, with resizing being the only edits made, then you can decide which one you like best. Let me just say, though, all three shooters are great, so there’s no wrong answer here.

Over the course of the past couple of days, I have used the cameras as I normally would. I took some landscape shots, macros, pictures of my dogs, and even did a short test of the video stabilization found on each device. Naturally, things differ from device to device in terms of specs, and the Pixel 2 only has a single camera compared to the dual setups on the LG V30 and Galaxy Note 8, but to sum it up, this is just a general overview of what these phones offer straight out of the box with no fancy editing or value tweaks.

Now, to make this somewhat interesting, I will embed the photos and then below, I will list which column is which phone. Do you think you can tell which is which? Let’s find out!

Let us begin.


  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Full Magnification

  

  

Galaxy Note 8 | Pixel 2 | LG V30

Well, now that you know which column is which, how’d you do?

Video Stabilization


Conclusion

As I stated, the photos weren’t touched up or edited in any way, but during the resizing and compression process, some details can be lost. Still, from what I can tell, each phone has an incredible camera, with all three being very versatile in varying conditions.

To my eye, it’s clear that the Pixel 2 does not draw in as much light as the V30 or Galaxy Note 8, but in the long run, the photos still turn out great. Instead of what could be a blown out image with too much exposure, there’s a subtle darkness to the images, which allows for better contrast and higher detail.

Naturally, the Pixel 2 doesn’t quite compete when zooming in to the max, given there’s no telephoto lens. However, the Galaxy Note 8 excels at this, with insane amounts of detail remaining even when zoomed in 100%. The LG V30 fared very well in this department, too. For more talk about the Galaxy Note 8’s camera, check out our written and video reviews. If you’re more interested in the V30, our review on that will be coming up soon, too.

The Pixel comes with a 12.2MP (f/1.8, OIS, EIS) camera, which doesn’t jump off the page in relation to other high-count megapixel sensors on the market, but Google obviously took a ton of time tuning not just the hardware, but the software as well. When the HDR+ option is enabled, colors are vibrant but not oversaturated, and when in low light, noise levels are very minimal. For example, in a night sky, you can aim the camera straight up. up the brightness to 100%, then shoot a picture. The resulting image, so long as there is no cloud cover, is a completely black sky with stars shining here and there. It’s quite remarkable, especially when we think back to how awful smartphone cameras used to be in the night time shooting department.

We have much more Pixel 2 to talk about in our full review which will be up later this week.


More Pixel 2 / Pixel 2 XL Coverage

Camera Shootout: Google Pixel 2 vs. LG V30 vs. Galaxy Note 8 is a post from: Droid Life

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Galaxy Note 8 Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/09/15/galaxy-note-8-review/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/09/15/galaxy-note-8-review/#comments Fri, 15 Sep 2017 17:07:46 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=205734

Before I dive into all things Galaxy Note 8 review, let’s get this out of the way. Last year, with the Galaxy Note 7 recall, things were bad. To this date, I don’t think we’ve seen something quite like it in smartphones, and to happen to such a big player in the game, it was very … Continued

Galaxy Note 8 Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Before I dive into all things Galaxy Note 8 review, let’s get this out of the way. Last year, with the Galaxy Note 7 recall, things were bad. To this date, I don’t think we’ve seen something quite like it in smartphones, and to happen to such a big player in the game, it was very interesting to see how Samsung would recover. Well, as we can see now, Samsung is doing just fine, with pre-orders of the Galaxy Note 8 crushing the company’s personal records. I also don’t see people making “fire” jokes anymore, so that’s also a plus.

Point being, Samsung did what they needed to do to correct the situation, then simply moved on and seems to have bettered their practices to ensure that type of thing doesn’t ever happen again. It was a lesson not only for Samsung, but for all consumer electronic makers across the globe.

This year, we have the Galaxy Note 8, the followup to last year’s recalled Note 7. There has been plenty of hype leading up to this device, thanks to tech media (including myself), so we’re here to find out if the Galaxy Note 8 is the Samsung device we’ve all been hoping for and awesome enough to help us forget about last year’s events.

This is our Galaxy Note 8 review.


The Good

Specs

Like previous years, Samsung is not afraid to throw every available tech into the Galaxy Note lineup, with the Note 8 being no exception. The device comes outfitted with a 6.3″ Infinity Super AMOLED Quad HD+ display (2960×1440, 521ppi), Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB RAM, 64GB built-in storage with support for expandable storage, dual 12MP rear-facing cameras with OIS, an IP68 rating, USB Type-C, NFC, MST (Samsung Pay), 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth 5.0, fingerprint reader, iris scanner, facial recognition, and a 3,300mAh battery with Fast wired and wireless charging.

Let all of that soak in for a moment. Besides stereo speakers and maybe a bigger battery, I’m not quite sure what else someone would ask for. I mean, this phone has it all. We’ll dive deeper into each one of these specs below, but just know that when it comes to bang for your buck, the Note 8 is no slouch.

Hardware

If you’re curious about what the Galaxy Note 8 feels like in-hand, simply pick up a Galaxy S8+, then imagine there being a slot for an S Pen on the bottom. To me, that’s basically what the Galaxy Note 8 is; an ever-so-slightly larger, squared off Galaxy S8+, which is fine for me. Thinking back to past Galaxy Note devices, it’s obvious that Samsung has come quite a long ways from faux-stitching and plastic materials.

On the front and backside of the device there is glass, with the sides featuring metal. It’s a premium looking and feeling device, one that you just know will shatter instantly if dropped on unforgiving surfaces. So, please, don’t drop it. Personally, I like the glass and metal feel in-hand, but I know it may not be the most durable hardware. One slip and this phone is likely done for, which can make me very nervous at times. If this is something you might stress about, I’d recommend getting a case.

Other hardware aspects we can’t ignore are the absence of capacitive buttons, dedicated home button, and the dreaded inclusion of the Bixby button. While we’ll discuss Bixby in a later section, I want to praise Samsung for its continued implementation of on-screen buttons. It’s the same, customizable layout that we have on the Galaxy S8, and it’s still just as cool as it was earlier this year.

I do have to mention its size and in-hand feel, though. I know Kellen and myself differ on this slightly, because he thinks the phone is way too tall and squared, but I think the phone feels rather good in-hand. The rounded sides really help to keep the phone in place, and thanks to One-handed operation modes, using it with one hand while I’m out walking the dogs is never an issue. I’ve found myself doing that shimmy to reach certain things on the screen a few times, but I do that on basically every phone anyway. My only real problem with its size comes when I go to put it in my pocket. If I have shallow pockets, one end will want to stick out just a tad, but that just comes with the territory when you have a 6.3″ Infinity display in your pocket.

Galaxy Note 8 Review

Display

On the frontside of the Galaxy Note 8 is its massive, 6.3″ Infinity display. Coming in with a resolution of 2960 x 1440 (521ppi), it’s absolutely gorgeous, providing plenty of pixels for all you #crispy YouTube video consumers.

While plenty of OEMs are utilizing QHD displays these days, Samsung still seems to dominate this category. Their AMOLED panels are rich with color, great for blacks, and are capable of providing users with Always On functionality. On top of the display quality, the “Infinity” aspect just adds to the gorgeousness. When watching a video from YouTube or playing games, the design of this display really helps provide an immersive experience, which I’m all about these days.

Camera

On the backside of the Galaxy Note 8, there are two 12-megapixel cameras, both featuring optical image stabilization (OIS). If you’re into camera specs, here’s the gist: 1 wide-angle (12MP, Dual Pixel AF, f/1.7,), then 1 telephoto (12MP AF, f/2.4, OIS, 2X optical zoom, up to 10X digital zoom). On the front, there’s an 8MP camera with f/1.7.

Just as I expected, the camera experience on the Note 8 is legit. From the shots I’ve taken, the camera is pretty trustworthy in all circumstances (portraits of humans/dogs, landscapes, low-lighting, etc.). As Kellen and I both talk about frequently, our biggest gripe with some shooters is the time it takes to not just load the camera app, but the time it takes for the shutter to react once you’ve pressed the capture button. On the Note 8, as soon as I press the button, the shot goes off, and there’s no delay between one shot to the next. It’s very responsive, allowing you to capture all those perfect moments.

Galaxy Note 8 Review

One aspect I don’t think enough folks highlighted when this device was announced is that both cameras on the back have OIS. That’s a pretty awesome fact, considering there are still a few phones out there that still don’t have any type of real stabilization. As for the shots themselves, they easily challenge any other high-end smartphone camera on the market. There’s not a lot of over exposing when in good enough lighting, but I will say, the Dual Pixel sensors let in so much light that when you’re shooting in dark conditions, you may need to dial down the brightness to adjust the amount of noise you might see. To do so, tap on where you’re trying to focus, then slide the ring around until you have your desired lighting. As I’ve found with most new Samsung devices, they excel at taking shots of certain colors, such as greens and purple. There’s something about trees and grass that really pops on these cameras, but when viewing them, that Super AMOLED panel probably also has a little bit to do with it.

Software wise, Samsung has decked out this camera with Live Focus (what I refer to as active bokeh), live Stickers that go atop people in your shots, Bixby Vision, Pro mode, Hyperlapse, Slow Motion, Panorama, “Food,” Virtual shot, plus the ability to download even more from Samsung’s app store. Seriously, there are a lot of bells and whistles in this app, which can be overwhelming, but regardless of your shooting situation, rest assured there’s a setting inside of here that can help you nail your shots.

 

Here’s a few samples from my time with the device.

 

Battery

The Galaxy Note 8 comes with a 3,300mAh battery, which probably disgruntled a few potential customers (considering how large this device is), but there’s not much we can do about that at this point.

 

Anyway, I have used the Galaxy Note 8 for about a week now, and for the most part, the battery has been fine, nothing extraordinary. I’m getting a solid day, with anywhere from 3-4 hours of screen on time, then about 10-20% of juice left. That’s what I get on a lot of different phones, so I’m assuming that’s a good thing. Could it be better? Sure! I could bump down the resolution of my display, not play so much Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, and I could also use my WiFi more, but for the most part, this phone’s battery has treated me just fine in terms of how I use it.

  

S Pen

Ah, the S Pen. Honestly, I don’t use the S Pen, but when I do remember that it’s there, it can be pretty sweet. This year, it’s the same ol’ S Pen as before, but there is at least one new feature that has been pretty fun to play with. It’s called Live Message and it allows you to create a word-centric GIF, complete with sparkly text. You can even take a screenshot of something on your phone, draw on it in sparkly text, then share it as a GIF via Twitter. Kellen has already made a couple great examples of this on his Twitter, but I can’t link to them because someone may get offended. If you’re interested in seeing them, scroll through his account (look around September 7).

Highlighted in my Tips and Tricks video, there is also Bixby Vision and a Google Translate tool. With translation active, you can hover the S Pen over a particular word, then translate it to basically any language Google supports. As someone who has been attempting to learn Spanish for the past 3 years, this can be very helpful. As for Bixby Vision, this tool allows you to hover over a picture, such as a pack of Oreo cookies, then find where you can shop for that item. Thanks to compatibility with Amazon, basically anything that’s for sale through that service can be recognized in a photo with Bixby Vision. I have to say, I don’t know how extremely useful that feature will be, but it’s there.

Beyond that fun stuff, you can still take your notes, draw pictures with pencil and brush tools, plus all of the other functionality you’d expect from a stylus.

Somewhere in the Middle

Software

This section is somewhat hard for me to write, only because I’m really torn how I feel about it. A part of me really enjoys all of the different things that Samsung’s software brings to the table. There are these “Advanced Features,” different implementations of Multi Window, and all of the customization options (themes, Icons, etc.). On the other hand, I’m a somewhat minimal guy, so having so much packed into my Settings menu can be a little overwhelming. At the end of the day, I think less is more, even when it comes to Android software.

Now, as for the software on the Galaxy Note 8, it’s good. For what feels like years I talked about how I wish Samsung would tone down its software, and for the most part, I still think they’re sticking to that. The UI is easily digestible, there’s simply just so much to discover and set up when you first boot the device that it can feel like a real chore. However, once all of your settings are in place and everything is set up to your liking, the experience is quite solid.

As I mentioned, Samsung has baked in plenty of things for you to enable/disable when using the device. We have gone over quite a few of these things already (linked below in the Videos section), but the highlights for me would be the ability to theme the UI, One-handed Mode, Game Launcher, and certain aspects of the Edge Panel (checking sports and accessing app shortcuts). Again, I recommend checking out our videos on the Galaxy Note 8’s software that I have linked below.

Bixby

Now that Bixby Voice is available in the US, I really got to test it out on the Galaxy Note 8. To sum up my thoughts on it, “Meh.” I certainly understand what Samsung is trying to do, giving users a way to interact with their phone and do certain actions with their voice, and that’s totally fine and dandy. To me, though, Bixby is more of an Accessibility feature, not really a competitor to Google Assistant or Siri. Yes, it can give you answers to questions, show you the weather, and even set reminders, but I think it excels at simply completing system-based tasks by listening to a user’s voice.

For example, I like that I can ask Bixby to open my camera or turn on my flashlight without me fiddling with buttons. I simply hold that Bixby button, speak the command, then it does it. That’s cool. But since I have Google Assistant already at my fingertips via the home button, I just don’t have a use for Bixby to complete web-based or Google-related tasks. I simply haven’t been convinced to ditch Google Assistant in order to use Bixby, which I can only access on a Samsung phone. For me, who is constantly switching phones, Assistant just makes more sense.

Unlike Google Assistant, Bixby takes quite a bit to set up, and it’s obvious that Samsung is still tweaking the way it learns. In setup, you have to speak about 10 or more different phrases, which helps it learn and better communicate with users. With Assistant, you just say “OK Google” 3x and you’re good to go.

I guess what I want to say is, Samsung, stay in your lane. We have companies like Apple and Google already leading the charge in digital assistants, and I suppose I don’t quite know why we need to keep fracturing up the market with newcomers. I mean, the Galaxy phones are already coming preloaded with Google Assistant. Is it really necessarily to build your own, too? Couldn’t those resources go towards something original or better? Take Samsung Pay for example. It is a better service than Android Pay, because it offers the convenience of mobile payments to nearly ever credit card terminal, not just those with NFC readers. Bixby does not solve anything or do something incredibly unique. It still feels like a beta and really just gets in the way more than it helps. If I had a nickel for every time I accidentally pressed on that Bixby button, I’d have at least $2 by now. I’m not saying scrap it completely, because it’s probably too late for that, but Samsung needs to find something much more unique to really tempt me to drop Google Assistant.

The Not-so-Good

Finger Reader Placement

If I’m really looking for something to not like about this phone, it would have to be the fingerprint reader. This might be the first phone I have used that has one, that I hardly even try to use. Thank the great spaghetti monster in the sky that this phone has facial recognition.Even though it’s awesome that this phone has one, the placement, at least for my hands, just ain’t right. It’s way out of the way, tucked in the top corner of the backside, right next to the glass that covers the LED and dual cameras. No. No. NO!

Samsung, I really hope y’all have a design in store for next year that addresses this issue. Maybe front glass with embedded fingerprint reading tech? That’d be cool.

Other Notes

  • Expandable Storage: If the 64GB of built-in storage isn’t quite enough for you, the Galaxy Note 8 does support expandable storage via microSD, up to 256GB. Believe me, every iPhone owner wishes they had this as they spend sometimes hundreds of more dollars to get the “one with more geebeez.”
  • Yep, It’s Got a Headphone Jack: Courage? Who needs that nonsense?
  • External Speaker: The single external speaker on the Galaxy Note 8 is fine, but of course, I wouldn’t mind having another. At first, you have to get used to holding the device a certain way in landscape so as not to block the sound, but you get used to it. One day, maybe, Samsung will give us a Note with dual stereo speakers. That would be swell.
  • Girlfriend Impressions: “It’s really big and the glass is slippery. I know I would drop this, so I’m not a fan.”

Availability and Price

Like any other Samsung flagship phone, you can find the Galaxy Note 8 at basically all major smartphone retailers and US carriers. You want it on Sprint? It’s there. You want it on Verizon? It’s there. There are even unlocked models available for sale via Best Buy and Samsung’s website. To sum it up, if you want to buy this phone, there are plenty of places to do so.

Now, while it is available nearly anywhere you look, let’s quickly discuss price. The phone, depending on where you buy it, will cost you around $930+. It’s really, really expensive, no denying that. You may want to ask me, “Yo, Tim, is it worth that much, though?” Honestly, I won’t be able to answer that for you, but I can say, think about the specs that are packed inside of here, the hardware, and if this is the phone you’ll want to live with for 1-2 years. For me, what the phone offers certainly could be worth around the $900 price, but that is rather subjective.

Galaxy Note 8 Purchase Links:

Video

Unboxing

First 10 Things to Do

20+ Tips and Tricks

Gallery

 

The Verdict

The Galaxy Note 8 is a damn good phone, one that will surely make any owner happy. It’s packed full of every single goody an Android user would hope for and then some. It’s probably the best Samsung and the company’s fans could hope for following last year’s recall craziness. As someone who has been reviewing Galaxy Note phones for a few years now, I can say for sure that this is the best iteration we’ve seen to date. It has an insanely good camera experience, design that will have all of your friends talking, plus it doesn’t leave anything out in the name of courage. To me, there were no sacrifices made in the making of this phone, making it one hell of a smartphone package.

One hurdle folks may have is that price, though. This is not a cheap device, but we’re bound to see more promotions and things of that nature as time goes on. If this is the phone you want, but don’t have the duckets, remain patient and the price is sure to get dropped from time to time through various retailers.

To sum up this entire thing into a single sentence: This is the best Note phone Samsung has made to date, and if you’re a Note fan, this is the device you’ve been waiting for.

Galaxy Note 8 Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Essential Phone Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/09/08/essential-phone-review/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/09/08/essential-phone-review/#comments Fri, 08 Sep 2017 21:53:34 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=205500

The Essential Phone is without a doubt the phone I’ve been the most interested in getting my hands on in recent months. And that’s over the Galaxy Note 8, LG V30, and whatever else might have been or might still be on the horizon. I say that because it’s different. It’s new. Sure, the phone … Continued

Essential Phone Review is a post from: Droid Life

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The Essential Phone is without a doubt the phone I’ve been the most interested in getting my hands on in recent months. And that’s over the Galaxy Note 8, LG V30, and whatever else might have been or might still be on the horizon. I say that because it’s different. It’s new. Sure, the phone is made by a familiar face, but it’s the approach by the company that captured my attention from day one and held onto it as I’ve moved into this Essential Phone review period.

You see, the Essential Phone isn’t supposed to be just another phone. Forget the name and the idea that it only brings the essentials, to me this phone attempts to fill a niche I’ve been waiting to see someone fill. This phone wants to not only ship with the most premium materials one can find for a phone, it then gets out of the way when it comes to software. So you’ve got a titanium and ceramic body that feel f*cking incredible in hand, but then you get stock, bare bones Android, the way Google intends for it to be displayed. This is a combination of ideas that are exactly what I have been looking for in a phone.

Remember, Google ships the software that enthusiasts like me enjoy, but their hardware hasn’t exactly been the best over the years. Samsung has managed to ship incredible hardware with premium materials (assuming you classify glass as premium), yet their software drives me insane even after years of tweaks and overhauls. Essential nailed both hardware and software, at least on paper, with its first phone.

After having one in hand for a full week now, it’s most definitely review time and the opinions are coming strong. Did this phone fulfill the void I’ve been needing someone to fill? Almost! The funny thing here, which you’ll see in our Essential Phone review below, is that even though there are a couple of areas that are quite disappointing, I’m still struggling to put the phone down. In fact, with an average-to-below-average camera and shaky software performance, I don’t know that I’m ready to go jump onto the shiny Note 8 sitting here next to me as I type this. I don’t know that I’ve experienced these feelings with any other phone at the end of a review period.

Enjoy the review.

Essential Phone Review

Buy Essential Phone:

Essential Phone Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Moto Z2 Force Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/08/03/moto-z2-force-review/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/08/03/moto-z2-force-review/#comments Thu, 03 Aug 2017 22:47:17 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=203966

Last year, Motorola introduced us to the Moto Z lineup of devices, along with its Moto Mods system. It’s year two now, and instead of a followup to the Moto Z, we’re getting a sequel to the Moto Z Force, which is appropriately named the Moto Z2 Force. While the phone looks very similar to … Continued

Moto Z2 Force Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Last year, Motorola introduced us to the Moto Z lineup of devices, along with its Moto Mods system. It’s year two now, and instead of a followup to the Moto Z, we’re getting a sequel to the Moto Z Force, which is appropriately named the Moto Z2 Force.

While the phone looks very similar to last year’s, Motorola has made a couple of changes, such as the inclusion of a dual camera system, as well as the chopping of the battery from 3,500mAh last year to just 2,730mAh this year. As you’d imagine, folks are skeptical of this decision, so let’s dive right into our findings and see how this year’s Z2 Force stacks up against the rest of 2017’s offerings.

This is our Moto Z2 Force review.

Moto Z2 Force Review

moto z2 force review


The Good

Software and Performance

I remember back in the day when Motorola included their custom Motoblur skin atop Android. Boy, that skin was bad. Over the past few years, Motorola has taken a more vanilla approach to its software, which is something I’ve greatly appreciated. The Moto Z2 Force doesn’t stray from that whatsoever, meaning its easy to pick up and start using, without a ton of features hidden deep inside the Settings menu.

Instead of including a ton of its own apps and junkware, Motorola essentially only includes its Moto application, which controls the phone’s gestures, Moto Display, Moto Voice, and all of that. It’s a very simplistic and straightforward way of controlling the phone’s custom features, making it easy for anyone to master.

  

Speaking about one of Moto’s new software tweaks in particular, One Button Nav axes the typical on-screen buttons and then outfits the fingerprint reader with all of those actions. For example, when this is enabled, you long press on the fingerprint reader to access Google Asssitant, swipe on it to view recent apps, or swipe the other way to go back. It makes your viewing area a bit larger and does speed up your navigation through the phone quite a bit. It’s a solid little feature.

There are still the classics baked in, too, such as “Chop Twice” to enable the flashlight and  “Twist for Quick Capture” that launches the camera.

  

If there’s one thing I can bet on when it comes to Motorola devices these days, it’s the software. If you’re a fan of old Nexus devices and the new Pixel phones, then there’s no reason you wouldn’t appreciate the experience on a Motorola device. The only big difference you’ll notice is that your updates won’t be as quick, but if you’re looking for other forms of hardware, or maybe want to try Moto Mods, then you can at least rest assured that your software will be fine. Coupled with the Snapdragon 835 and 4GB RAM, there was never a moment of jank or any performance issues, either. All around a great software and performance experience.

Battery Life

Now I know that many will be looking for this section specifically, so I’m happy to report that battery life belongs in this spot in “The Good” section. While Motorola may have hurt a few feelings by dropping the size from last year’s Moto Z Force of 3,500mAh to this year’s 2,730mAh, this phone still has great battery life. And believe me, I’m the first one to be shocked. No doubt, it could have been even better if they had stuffed a bigger battery in a larger body, but considering how thin this device is and whatever optimizations they did to make it last all day long, it’s solid battery life.

On an average day, I was going from 7AM to 11PM or so just fine, without needing to find a charger throughout the day. And if you haven’t been following my phone usage lately, you need to know that I’ve been playing a ton of mobile games, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes specifically, and that game is a pure battery killer. Even with me grinding on that game for a long time each day, the phone still has juice.

If your usage is even harder than mine, you’ll still benefit from the inclusion of Motorola’s Turbo Charging, which can have your phone charged for a day’s usage in about 30-40 minutes.

Camera

In this year’s Z2 Force, Motorola included a dual camera system, consisting of two 12MP shooters with f/2.0 and 1.25um. On the front there’s a 5MP wide-angle camera with f/2.2. While I won’t say it’s the best camera in a smartphone ever, it’s actually quite good, especially if I think back to how bad Moto cameras have been in previous devices.

On the software side, Motorola baked in a few tricks, such as a Professional Mode, True B&W, Depth enabling (to use that dual system), and Panorama mode. Personally, I stuck to the standard shooting mode, but I do appreciate the addition of these modes, specifically the Pro mode. With it, you can manually adjust settings such as ISO, exposure, shutter speed, and more. If you take your mobile photography seriously, then these are good things to have control over at times.

When playing with the B&W mode, I wasn’t necessarily blown away, thinking how easy it is to simply use a filter to turn any color photo into B&W. There’s actually many filters like that on Instagram or even in the Google Photos application. While it’s cool to have a dedicated mode to finely tune contrast and lighting for you, I wouldn’t label it as a marquee feature. Potential buyers should also note that no OIS or EIS is labeled as being equipped, so hopefully you have steady hands when you’re shooting your 4K videos at 30fps.

Here’s a few camera samples from my time with the device.

Availability

Unlike prior years, Motorola basically shocked the world by making this phone available on all major carriers. Seriously, it’s a big step for a company that may want to reclaim a piece of the US market. Unfortunately, a single Moto Z2 Force won’t work on all carriers, as it’s not carrier-agnostic, but you can find a variant for your specific carrier with relative ease. Having a single SKU that can be taken between AT&T and Verizon would have been swell, though just the idea that anyone on any carrier can get this phone in the first place is a solid win.

Typically, availability would be coupled with the price and our thoughts on that, but I have to save that section for a little later on in this review. I love being ominous.

Somewhere in the Middle


Specs

The Z2 Force comes equipped with all of the high-end specifications you’d expect, yet as a phone that is marketed as a top-tier device and priced like one, I can’t help but think this phone is missing something. I suppose what really rubs me wrongly is that markets out of the US may see a somewhat better version (on paper) than what we have here in the US. While we don’t have specifics yet, it is reported that markets out of the US will get 6GB RAM in their Z2 Force, instead of the 4GB we have. Additionally, it is reported that China will have a 128GB storage model, while we are maxed at 64GB. This isn’t a terrible thing and I’m sure moves like these are made to keep costs lower, but the phone is marked at $756 at full retail on Verizon. That’s a crazy high price for a phone that really doesn’t exude luxury or premium-ness. I’ll dive more into that below in the hardware section.

For specs, the Z2 Force as it is offered in the US has a 5.5″ Quad HD POLED with ShatterShield, Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB built-in storage, microSD slot with support up to 2TB, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, fingerprint reader, dual rear-facing 12MP cameras, USB Type-C, water repellent nano coating, Moto Mods support, and Android 7.1.1 “Nougat.”

This list does seem fine for a 2017 flagship, but nothing about it really jumps out and sets itself apart from what else is out there. And this isn’t me trying to be a hater. If Motorola had opted to provide a larger battery instead of pushing new Moto Mods, then this may be a different conversation, but as it stands, for the price of almost two OnePlus 5 64GB units, you just expect more.

Display

The Z2 Force comes with a 5.5″ QHD POLED display, with ShatterShield technology on top. Now, I have seen other reviewers talk about the ruggedness of this display, saying it scratches easily, but I haven’t had those issues. I’ve been using the phone for a solid week now and don’t have any major damage to report, thankfully. I will say, though, there is a minor issue I have when pressing down on the display near the fingerprint reader. When doing this, I hear a slight clicking noise, as if the display isn’t completely attached to the glass. Is it a deal breaker? No, but it is sorta annoying, and goes along with my belief that this phone isn’t necessary worth almost $800.

While I’m all for displays that won’t shatter if you drop them, there’s something about ShatterShield that doesn’t feel very smooth or premium to my fingers. Coming from a OnePlus 5 and Galaxy S8+ that have real glass screens, it certainly is a bit different. As a user of last year’s Moto Z Force, I will say that this phone’s screen feels better than that one, which always felt very cheap to me.

As for the display itself, it seems fine, especially when we don’t have to worry about squinting to see pixels. Its colors are vibrant, there’s no noticeable light bleed, and it gets insanely bright when the brightness setting is jacked up. Believe me, you shouldn’t have any problems viewing this in direct sunlight when you’re out and about.

Moto Mods

I remember when modules for smartphones were something I was very excited about, but with the latest lineup of Moto Mods, my feelings are beginning to change. Allow me to explain.

Last year there was a few cool ones, such as the JBL speaker and that projector mod, all of which had a their own level of usefulness and continue to work on the latest Moto Z devices. They were these add-on accessories that made your already cool phone cooler. That’s great and continues to be so. However, with the Z2 Force, Motorola did something not many expected, which was to strip away a big chunk of the device’s battery. In doing so, it’s as if Motorola is forcefully nudging you into purchasing a Mod to get that battery life back. I mean, who doesn’t want the most battery they can get, right?

I understand the move, but it seems hostile towards the customer to me, as if Motorola hired an Apple executive for a weekend and this is what he came up with. At the board meeting he says, “Hey, I know, let’s decrease the phone’s battery size, still charge a premium price, then sell folks a separate battery pack that they’d be silly not to buy.” You see what I’m getting at?

Other Moto Mods besides the battery packs are totally cool and I’m, fine with what they deliver, such as the JBL 2 speaker, Incipio Vehicle Dock, 360 Camera, and the Moto GamePad. In fact, that GamePad looks really awesome for anyone who wants to do a ton of mobile gaming. The point is, some mods seem like they actually increase the usefulness of the phone, while others give me the sense that Motorola purposefully limited the device, only to push sales of the Mods.

Thankfully, as I previously mentioned, the battery life on the Z2 Force has been fine, so you won’t see me out in the streets with pitchforks, but it may be time to admit that modules for phones might not be that awesome. I always saw them as potential upgrades for the phone, such as the concept of swapping RAM and camera configurations, and maybe one day we’ll be there, but we clearly aren’t there quite yet.

Hardware / Design

Lenovo has publicly committed to supporting last year’s Moto Mods for three years. In smartphone years, that might as well be eternity. Because of this move, we can expect nearly an identical looking phone for years in a row, and with hardware innovation beginning to take off with bezel-less displays and all of that, saying that you’re going to release the same phone a few years in a row is a tough way to get people excited about your hardware.

Frankly, this design was interesting last year when it was first introduced, but now it seems kind of boring, and it has been implemented throughout Motorola’s entire lineup. They’re all plain looking smartphones with giant circles on the back for the camera. I don’t know how many more of the same Motorola devices I can look at before thinking they are absolutely crazy for committing support for that long. Props for making sure yours customers don’t feel screwed after they spent their money on the phone and subsequent Moto Mods, but man, way to work yourself into a hardware design corner.

While the Z Force from last year and this year’s Z2 Force are nearly identical, Motorola did toss in the dual camera on the backside which at least helps differentiate a bit. But what will it do next year? I’ll tell you. They will probably announce a phone that looks just like the Z2 Force, because when you only give yourself so much to work with. you aren’t met with many choices. We may see slightly smaller bezels, but unless ShatterShield can start being curved, we’re probably going to end up with the same phone 3 years in a row. And again, that’s boring.

Forgetting that Motorola released this same looking device last year and focusing purely on the Z2 Force hardware, I can say it is nice. Thanks to the smaller battery, it feels good in-hand and the aluminum on the backside is nice and cool to the touch. I’ll be the first to say, I think it’s a handsome phone, but as someone who covers Android phones for a living, I’ll be happy when Motorola can break away from this design and try something new.

The Not-so-Good


Price

The Moto Z2 Force is not cheap, not by any means. Through Motorola’s website, the phone can be found for $720. On Verizon, it’s $756 off contract. On AT&T, it’s $809. Oh, sorry, did you just spit your drink out all over your keyboard and monitor while reading that? My bad. Now, forgive me, but there’s no way this phone is actually worth that much.

Let’s compare it to others on the market, which helps to put pricing into perspective. At launch, a Galaxy S8 would have cost you about $750 off contract. Now you can find a US unlocked model for $575 when it’s on sale (and it’s constantly on sale). That’s the latest flagship from Samsung and you know it’s packed with the best specs you can find anywhere. It has a killer display, camera, the same processor as the Z2 Force, but it also has a 3.5mm headphone jack, IP68 rating, and fast wireless charging. That’s the high-end of the Android smartphone spectrum. How about the OnePlus 5? Arguably one of the best phones for the money right now, you get a dual camera system, 3.5mm headphone jack, 6GB RAM, and very nice hardware for just $479.

To me, Motorola cannot command the same pricing as Samsung with this phone, it’s as simple as that. When you buy this phone, you’ll be tempted to buy a few Moto Mods, and I’d even recommend picking up a nice set of Bluetooth headphones, only because the idea of carrying around a Type-C to 3.5mm adapter is just silly to me. With all of that, off contract, you’re dropping about $1,000, which, if I dare say, is ridiculous. Please, don’t get me wrong, this phone is fine, but maybe at $600 or $650 max, not $750+.

Here are links to where you can order the Z2 Force, if you’re interested.

Moto Z2 Force first 10 things

Other

  • Girlfriend Impressions: “I don’t like how the camera isn’t flush on the back, phone is very light, but feels durable. Not a fan of the super rounded edges, but I do like the size of the phone. It doesn’t feel too big. It’s very finger printy.”
  • No Headphone Jack: Yup, no headphone jack on the Z2 Force. Is it the worst thing ever? No, but as someone who has a treasure trove of wired headphones, it does kinda suck. Motorola includes an adapter for Type-C to 3.5mm, but dang, I already deal with enough dongles on my new MacBook Pro. I’m tired of dongle life.
  • Speaker: There’s a single external speaker on the Z2 Force that it is loud with plenty of low end. With its position on top of the frontside, watching videos and playing games is plenty of fun, with no fingers getting in the way of the tunes. Sure, I wish it was a dual stereo setup, but hey, you can always buy a JBL Moto Mod!
  • Water Repellent: Why isn’t this phone rated at IP67 or 68? The design of the phone would lend itself well to water resistance, but instead, we get a “water repellent nano coating.” If that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, as in you have no idea what it means, then I don’t know what to say. On Moto’s website, they make it very clear, “Not designed to be submersed in water, or exposed to pressurized water, or other liquids; not waterproof.” So, yeah, don’t take it around water, even though plenty of other phones these days, around the same price, all offer water resistance.

Videos

First 10 Things to Do

The Verdict

I must say, it’s rather hard to sum up my feelings on this device in a short, easily digestible sentence. While I want to say I like this phone very much, the Z2 Force’s price simply doesn’t allow me to do that. That price, along with what feels like a boring, hindered hardware experience at times, leaves me wanting to go back to other devices quite quickly. For example, if I have the S8 or OnePlus 5 on a desk next to the Z2 Force, I’m grabbing those devices over the Z2 every day of the week. If I wasn’t constantly reminded that a Moto Mod could potentially better my experience, maybe I wouldn’t feel this way, but at $720+, followed by even more money for Moto Mods, this is a tough pill to swallow, especially since this phone feels like last year’s Z Force with dual cameras. I mean, they have officially committed to supporting the existing catalogue of Moto Mods, meaning they can’t drastically change up the hardware at all. That’s not an ideal situation when LG, HTC, and Samsung are able to change things up as they see fit from year to year. As the competitors evolve, Motorola is seemingly stuck with this.

If you really want to win me over, Motorola, since you are stuck with this design, you’ve got to give it all. Give me a Z phone with everything here, including the Moto Mods, but I also need IP68, a headphone jack, thinner bezels, and dual front-facing speakers. I’m sure you can manage that while not ditching your Moto Mod strategy. It may be necessary, too, or you run the risk of falling into obscurity yet again.

Moto Z2 Force Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Moto Z2 Play Review: Return of the Battery King? https://www.droid-life.com/2017/07/20/moto-z2-play-review-return-battery-king/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/07/20/moto-z2-play-review-return-battery-king/#comments Fri, 21 Jul 2017 00:41:20 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=203541

Alright, alright, alright, it’s time for our Moto Z2 Play review, now that I’ve had a cool couple of weeks to absorb a phone that is the follow-up to the sleeper of the year phone from 2016. You guys know I loved the original Moto Z Play, so this one I’ve been looking forward to. … Continued

Moto Z2 Play Review: Return of the Battery King? is a post from: Droid Life

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Alright, alright, alright, it’s time for our Moto Z2 Play review, now that I’ve had a cool couple of weeks to absorb a phone that is the follow-up to the sleeper of the year phone from 2016. You guys know I loved the original Moto Z Play, so this one I’ve been looking forward to.

To recap, the Moto Z2 Play is currently a $408 phone that’s exclusive to Verizon, but will show up as an unlocked model later this year for around $500. It features a 5.5-inch FHD Super AMOLED display, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage with SD slot, Snapdragon 626 processor, 3000mAh battery, Moto Mods compatibility, 12MP f/1.7 rear camera, fingerprint reader, and Android 7.1.1. The unlocked model should feature 4GB RAM and 64GB storage. (Full specs)

Last year’s Moto Z Play was so good because it featured the most insane battery life I’ve ever experienced in a phone, along with a clean version of Android with Moto’s suite of software features on top (Moto Display, Voice, and Actions) and a reasonable price. In a sea of bloated, skinned Android phones, this phone was a breath of fresh air, not only because you couldn’t kill it, but because it wasn’t trying to be anything extra – it was just simple and good. It even saw a couple of timely updates if I do recall correctly.

With the Moto Z2 Play, I was curious to see if Motorola could recreate that magic. They came somewhat close, though that reduction in battery size from 3510mAh to 3000mAh for the sake of thinness was a mistake. The rest is pretty good (and not that the battery life is bad by any means), it just doesn’t have that special something to help it standout like it did a year ago.

Moto Z2 Play Review

Buy Moto Z2 Play: Verizon | Motorola

Moto Z2 Play Review: Return of the Battery King? is a post from: Droid Life

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Quick Review: Galaxy S8 Peel Cases https://www.droid-life.com/2017/07/13/peel-galaxy-s8-case-review-first-look/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/07/13/peel-galaxy-s8-case-review-first-look/#comments Thu, 13 Jul 2017 19:49:22 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=203270

Heard of Peel, the case company? As a four year old company who started out making incredibly thin iPhone cases, they sure seem to be gaining some traction in the Android case game at the moment, or at the very least promoting themselves well. I keep seeing them everywhere, particularly on Instagram with their Pixel … Continued

Quick Review: Galaxy S8 Peel Cases is a post from: Droid Life

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Heard of Peel, the case company? As a four year old company who started out making incredibly thin iPhone cases, they sure seem to be gaining some traction in the Android case game at the moment, or at the very least promoting themselves well. I keep seeing them everywhere, particularly on Instagram with their Pixel cases. Either way, they make stupidly thin cases (0.35mm thin), which is something I appreciate as someone who hates cases.

Yesterday, they launched their new Peel Galaxy S8 and S8+ cases and were kind enough to send over some samples for us to take a look at. They cost $24.99 and are available in Orchid Grey, Midnight Black, and Arctic Silver, the same colors as the S8.

My first impression of them is that yes, they are incredibly thin and almost leave you feeling like your phone doesn’t have a case on. That’s the point, so I’d say they nailed that. In fact, I may use this Arctic Silver one for a bit, since it fits so damn nicely and my S8 is already getting scratched to hell after only a few months of use.

peel galaxy s8 case review

These guys wanted to make cases that offer a bit of protection, yet don’t take away from the design or feel of your phone like most other cases. Now, the chances of them saving you from a massive drop are probably pretty slim, but they will provide more protection than if you just went straight naked. If anything, they’ll protect your phone from daily bumps and scratches, yet you won’t notice an extra half-inch of chunky plastic surrounding your phone.

These cases slide on and fit like a glove, feature cutouts for all of the big ports, buttons, and even the microphones. They are semi-transparent, so you’ll still mostly see the Samsung and Galaxy S8 branding on the backside. They don’t cover the front of the device at all, which is both good and bad. The good being the fact that the Infinity Display is left uncovered; the bad being that your phone won’t have any lift or protection should you lay it face down.

Overall, I’d say that these are certainly some cases I could get behind, but then again, I’m not a case guy. I can’t stand cases. I’d basically be using one to prevent further scratching and minor drop protection. If that’s something you’d like as well, they may be a good choice, plus the $25 price tag isn’t absurd by any means. If you need real protection, you might want to look elsewhere.

If interested, you can pickup these cases at the Peel Store.

NOTE: Readers pointed us to the MNML cases over at Amazon that are similar (0.35mm thin) and about $10 cheaper. Could be worth a look.

Peel Galaxy S8 Case Review

peel galaxy s8 case review

peel galaxy s8 case review

peel galaxy s8 case review

Quick Review: Galaxy S8 Peel Cases is a post from: Droid Life

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OnePlus 5 Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/07/07/oneplus-5-review/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/07/07/oneplus-5-review/#comments Fri, 07 Jul 2017 16:38:25 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=202739

In 2016, we declared the OnePlus 3T as the Phone of the Year. To us, it was a complete package, coupled with a price that isn’t too extreme for most smartphone buyers. Sure, it had its drawbacks, but there was plenty to love, too. Now, in 2017, OnePlus has taken feedback as it always does, … Continued

OnePlus 5 Review is a post from: Droid Life

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In 2016, we declared the OnePlus 3T as the Phone of the Year. To us, it was a complete package, coupled with a price that isn’t too extreme for most smartphone buyers. Sure, it had its drawbacks, but there was plenty to love, too. Now, in 2017, OnePlus has taken feedback as it always does, focused on a few points in particular, and has released the OnePlus 5.

Does it live up to the hype? Is this the year we see a back-to-back Phone of the Year awarded? That’s what we’re here to find out, so let’s get to it.

This is our OnePlus 5 review.

OnePlus 5 Review


The Good


Specs

For a company that comes out and says specs don’t make a phone great, they sure do pack in the heat in an attempt to get people excited. On paper, this thing is a beast, featuring an optional 8GB RAM + 128GB storage (or 6GB + 64GB), dual rear-facing cameras (20MP + 16MP), 5.5″ FHD Optic AMOLED display (1080p, 401ppi, 16:9), NFC, fingerprint reader, USB Type C, Snapdragon 835 processor, and plenty of other stuff to get us Android nerds pumped up. If you want the full list of specs, we got that info right here.

On the downside for specs, this phone is missing something that many other flagships have in 2017, that being water resistance. I mean, pretty much every phone has this now; even HTC devices. I understand that OnePlus can’t put everything into this phone because they need to keep the price down, but even slight water resistance would have been appreciated. Heck, I’d pay an extra $50-75 for that, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Beyond that, you can’t complain about too much in terms of specs. This phone pretty much has it all.

Hardware

At a quick glance, especially if you use a cover, the OnePlus 5 looks identical to last year’s OnePlus 3T. If you shed the cover, though, you will see minor changes to the design — changes that I very much like. The phone is slim, resting well in the hand, but its cool metallic feeling is smooth and refined. The backside has a subtle curve to it, bringing the word “elegant” to my head. This hardware and build is impressive from a still young manufacturer, but its not very surprising from OnePlus; they’ve always taken design seriously.

While I think the phone is gorgeous, it does seem rather plain when you look at the iteration from last year’s phone to this. It’s really only a slight change to the overall feel and look (dual cameras this year), but the frontside is as identical as you can get. Not to say the front is bad, but it just seems that OnePlus didn’t want to fix something that wasn’t broken. We have phones with extremely thin bezels in 2017, so I would have looked to see more effort made to introduce an overhauled front. We’ve heard OnePlus discuss this, so my guess would be that we can expect a radical change in 2018.

oneplus 5 review

One hardware piece on this device that you won’t find on any other Android device is the Alert Slider. I said it years ago and I’ll say it again, EVERY phone needs this. Being able to quickly toggle through notification settings is genius, so I’m shocked no one else has jumped on this. I mean, iPhone devices have had it forever, so you’d think Android OEMs would take the hint — people like the slider.

Software

One of the aspects I’ve always enjoyed about OnePlus’ software is the the less is more approach. OxygenOS (on top of Android Nougat) is basically what you’d find on a Nexus or Pixel device, but with a few tweakable things baked in. For example, you can switch between on-screen or physical buttons, changeup the battery status icon, or change up the theme of the device. It’s small stuff, but I’d rather have these few options and essentially what is stock Android than TouchWiz and all of the bloat that is associated with it.

Like past OnePlus devices, gestures are also baked in, such as the “V” to turn on the flashlight, “O” to open the camera, and three-finger swipes to take a screenshot. Users can display their network speed in the status bar, access an icon manager, and the OnePlus launcher has even been updated to reflect that of the Pixel devices. It’s pretty sweet.

  

When OnePlus announced this phone, they mentioned the amount of RAM and other tweaks they made to make the software smooth. For the most part, it certainly feels that they did a good job in this category. I can switch through apps pretty quick, and memory management doesn’t seem too strict when it comes to auto-closing apps. I’m still hesitant to say all phones need 8GB RAM, but I suppose if all phones would be smooth like the OnePlus 5, it’s something to consider.

  

  

Somewhere in the Middle


Display

This year’s display is the same 5.5″ FHD Optic AMOLED we’ve had in previous generations, but with Gorilla Glass 5 protecting it from scratches and scrapes. There’s certainly nothing wrong with FHD, but at what point will OnePlus decide to make the jump to QHD? If the company wants to add VR functionality (I hear Daydream and VR is all the rage these days), a higher resolution will be necessary. Then there’s also that Snapdragon 835 basically going to waste on a 1080p panel. That chipset is capable of pushing a lot of pixel power, and with prices continuing to go up and up year after year, there’s really no reason not to source QHD panels from another company and include them. Oh, speaking of which, this would be a good time for a prediction. Next year, 2018, the OnePlus 6 will cost $599 (starting) and come with QHD. You heard it here first, folks. Again, that’s just a prediction.

Battery

If you’ve already watched Kellen’s video review, you’ll notice this is an area we differ a bit. While he says he got crazy good life with, like, 6+ hours of screen on time, my experience was average to sometimes below average. Unlike him, I used AT&T for the majority of my use, simply because I was traveling to an area that T-Mobile does not support. On AT&T, I was running out of juice around 8-9PM, sometimes later. It depended heavily on how much I was gaming, which I’ve been doing quite a bit of.

Five of the days I was using the device, my usage was very sporadic, and I didn’t have the phone on me much. That led to better battery life, but didn’t quite help me determine just how good the battery is. At least from what I can tell, if you have the choice, opt to have the best cell signal you can, which will help greaten your battery life.

On the upside, Dash Charge seems to only get better with each iteration. I love it. You plug the phone in and 15 minutes later you’re at 50%+ of juice. It’s incredibly clutch, especially if you’re a gamer like me.

 

 

Availability and Price

As you’d expect, just like every other device from this company, don’t expect to find it at your local carrier store. If you want the OnePlus 5, you’ll have to go through the company’s online shop, starting at $479. That’s the 6GB model. For $539, you can get the 8GB model, but I’m under the impression that 8GB is just overkill these days. Maybe in a year or two we’ll need 8GB, but right now? Seems unnecessary, but that’s just me.

While you won’t find it in a store, there is one good thing happening at this moment — you can actually buy the phone. In past years, the phones from OnePlus would be sold out and no one would have any good clue when they’d be available, but with the OnePlus 5, that seems to have changed. Good job, OnePlus.

This would also be a good time to discuss the pricing scheme OnePlus has going on. The first OnePlus phone cost $299 and had a lot of excitement surrounding it, partly thanks to that amazing prize. OnePlus was able to deliver solidly built hardware at a very competitive price, but that model seems to be going away. This is OnePlus’ most expensive phone yet, and I don’t see this trend stopping soon. As the years goes on, buyers want more and more, and OnePlus simply can’t offer everything under the sun in a sub-$450 package. We’d have to ditch the dual cameras, next-gen processors, stupid amounts of RAM, and think twice about the materials we’re using. That just doesn’t seem like the OnePlus way. This company wants to make premium handsets, the kind that can compete with Google, HTC, and Samsung.

For this, we mustn’t hate on OnePlus, we need to look in the mirror. We continuously ask for more and more, but then expect a cheap price tag. I am guilty of this, too, but as I stated, I’m willing to pay a premium price for premium specs and hardware. To wrap up my thoughts on the pricing, I’m fine with the increases, so long as what’s being added is worthy of it. This year we have 8GB RAM and a dual camera. Do those make the price bump worth it to you?

The Not-so-Good


Camera

For how long OnePlus has hyped up the dual rear-facing cameras on the backside, let’s just say that I expected so much more. I at least expected usable photos, but sadly, that’s not what I got. The OnePlus 5 has a 20MP sensor (Sony IMX350, f/2.6, 1.0um, PDAF) alongside a 16MP sensor (Sony IMX398, f/1.7, 1.12um, EIS, DCAF), which should be able to create solid images and video. While I enjoyed how fast I could snap shots off, I had a very rough time with the final product. Pictures come out blurry, poorly processed, and there’s noise even in daytime shots.

If you compare these shooters to what you find on the Galaxy S8, G6, or even Pixel, my assumption is those phones would blow this away. I can hope that OnePlus could simply send out an update to address the quality of shooting, but it has already done that, so I don’t quite know what to tell you. Maybe more work can be done, but at what point were they using this phone and said, “Oh yeah, this is super good, let’s roll with it!” The company even claims it worked closely with Sony to develop a custom sensor, but you’d never be able to tell.

  

Speaking purely about the camera software, I like it. There are all the tools you might want (filters, Pro mode, Time-lapse, Slow motion, and even a “Shot on OnePlus Watermark,” plus that Portrait mode is just a swipe away. Is the Portrait mode even cool, though? Gonna have to lean towards “No” again. Whenever I used it, there’s way too much halo effect on my subjects with grainy blur in the background, and I couldn’t even get a usable shot of a human subject, so I’ve placed one below that features my dog. Insert frustrated emoji here.

I will admit, as smartphone people, we’re all spoiled with the effort many companies are putting into cameras, so I applaud OnePlus’ effort to bring us something new. It just doesn’t seem to have worked out this time around, but like I said, maybe an update can help improve the quality of shots.

 

Portrait of Loki

 

Other Notes

  • Fingerprint reader – The fingerprint reader experience is pretty much identical to what is on the OnePlus 3T. It’s fast and can be used to unlock the phone without turning on the screen.
  • 3.5mm headphone jack – OnePlus joked on stage that it removed the headphone jack on the OnePlus 5. I didn’t think it was funny, but hey, it’s got one!
  • Updates – We can’t assume OnePlus is going to bring 2 years of major updates and 3 years of security updates. We can certainly hope for that, but this company has a bit to prove, especially with news going out recently that the OnePlus 2 is very much dead in terms of support. OnePlus has had its issues with development teams and merging, so with OxygenOS now all under one roof, let’s hope things go smoothly for OnePlus 5 owners. So far, it’s been fine, with the OP5 already receiving a couple of updates.
  • Girlfriend impressions – “This feels like my OnePlus 3 and it’s really slippery. I need a case just to grip it.”
  • Night Mode – A tweak that all Android OEMs seem to be baking in these days, and for that, I’m grateful. It’s very helpful when it’s close to bedtime and you’re trying to save your eyes from burning up.

Videos

Unboxing

First 10 Things to Do

20+ Tips and Tricks

Gallery

 

 

OnePlus 5 Review: Should you buy one?

So, do we have ourselves a back-to-back Phone of the Year? Sadly, nope, not even close. While I don’t think the OnePlus 5 is a step back by any means, the camera is enough to make me give this phone a hard pass. OnePlus has done a great job with hardware, software, and Dash Charge, but man, this camera kills the entire experience for me. It’s a real shame, considering how much time they spent on stage to hype it up.

Now, if OnePlus comes out with a magical update to fix the camera issues, I could easily find myself jumping back onboard. The phone is great in hand, has sweet software, and should (hopefully) receive timely updates. There’s a lot to like, especially at a starting price of $479.

If you’re someone who needs me to provide a definitive answer, then I will say “No.” Wait to see what Google has later this year, Samsung has the Galaxy Note 8 coming, and LG will have its followup to the V20. It’ll be a good second half for 2017, so if you aren’t completely sold on the OnePlus 5, just hang in there. If you already own the OnePlus 3 or 3T, I could see you upgrading, but don’t expect any night and day differences. The phones are incredibly similar, so again, I would recommend just holding out for a little later this year.

Buy OnePlus 5: OnePlus Store

OnePlus 5 Review is a post from: Droid Life

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HTC U11 Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/06/12/htc-u11-review/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/06/12/htc-u11-review/#comments Mon, 12 Jun 2017 14:13:06 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=201548

The HTC U11 is officially available and began shipping on Friday. After spending a good couple of weeks with this latest high-end phone from the Taiwanese manufacturer, we’ve got some thoughts on whether or not you should dive in and buy one. Ready for our HTC U11 review? Below, you’ll find our full U11 review … Continued

HTC U11 Review is a post from: Droid Life

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The HTC U11 is officially available and began shipping on Friday. After spending a good couple of weeks with this latest high-end phone from the Taiwanese manufacturer, we’ve got some thoughts on whether or not you should dive in and buy one. Ready for our HTC U11 review?

Below, you’ll find our full U11 review video, including details on the camera performance and experience, if the liquid metallic design here can stand-up to LG and Samsung’s latest, how efficient and powerful the Snapdragon 835 is, and if the battery life is any good. Not to spoil it, but for the most part, yeah, the U11 is absolutely fine in all categories that we consider to be the most important, outside of design. That’s the only area I feel that this phone falls a bit short in. 

The HTC U11 is indeed a phone that is worth considering as your next phone, which is territory I’m not sure HTC has been in for some time. Is the HTC U11 the best phone available? Not in my opinion, but I’d also suggest that it could be for some of you, especially if you want a traditional phone design that actually features bezel.

I’ll say this – if you buy the HTC U11, you won’t be disappointed. If you pass on it, I don’t think you’ll be missing out either.

HTC U11 Review

Buy HTC U11Amazon | HTC.com | Sprint

HTC U11 Review is a post from: Droid Life

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BlackBerry KEYone Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/06/09/blackberry-keyone-review/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/06/09/blackberry-keyone-review/#comments Fri, 09 Jun 2017 15:51:22 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=201523

The moment I know all of you have been waiting for, our BlackBerry KEYone review is now up! If you caught last week’s Droid Life Show, you’ll know I have been using this device for the past week, attempting to fall back in love with physical QWERTY keyboards. Did it happen? You’ll have to watch … Continued

BlackBerry KEYone Review is a post from: Droid Life

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The moment I know all of you have been waiting for, our BlackBerry KEYone review is now up! If you caught last week’s Droid Life Show, you’ll know I have been using this device for the past week, attempting to fall back in love with physical QWERTY keyboards. Did it happen? You’ll have to watch our Blackberry KEYone review to find out. 

The KEYone is an odd device, with its tiny 4.5″ FHD display and performance limited Snapdragon 625 processor, but I think there is definitely a group of consumers out there that would thoroughly enjoy this phone. You know, the kind of folks who don’t do a whole lot of media consumption or gaming, the things that smartphones are really good at doing these days.

As I mention in the review, I have had zero experience with BlackBerry devices leading up to this, so I’m happy that the KEYone was my first. It’s a decent little package, featuring a solid 12MP camera (same sensor as the Pixel), hefty battery life, and excellent build quality.

Check out the video and share your KEYone thoughts below.

BlackBerry KEYone Review

Buy Blackberry KEYone: Best Buy | Amazon

BlackBerry KEYone Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy S8 Review https://www.droid-life.com/2017/04/27/samsung-galaxy-s8-review/ https://www.droid-life.com/2017/04/27/samsung-galaxy-s8-review/#comments Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:13:42 +0000 http://www.droid-life.com/?p=199909

Given the misfortune Samsung went through last year with the Galaxy Note 7, the company undoubtedly needed to bring its A-game for 2017. Intro the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, the company’s latest flagships to help consumers forget that it accidentally shipped out devices that could set a house ablaze and not regular ol’ smartphones. Our … Continued

Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy S8 Review is a post from: Droid Life

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Given the misfortune Samsung went through last year with the Galaxy Note 7, the company undoubtedly needed to bring its A-game for 2017. Intro the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, the company’s latest flagships to help consumers forget that it accidentally shipped out devices that could set a house ablaze and not regular ol’ smartphones. Our Galaxy S8 review dives into whether or not that happened.

Instead of a Edge variant like last year, we’ve got two identical devices, with exception to the battery size and display size. Other than that, it’s the same phone, so we’ll kill two birds with one stone in this review.

This is our Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy S8 review.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Review

The Good


Specs

As I said, both the Galaxy S8 and S8+ are the same device, minus the display size and battery size. Inside both devices you will find a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB built-in storage, microSD support, NFC, iris scanner, fingerprint reader, facial recognition technology, 12MP rear-facing Dual Pixel camera, 8MP front-facing camera, IP68 water and dust resistance, USB Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack (no courage!), MST for Samsung Pay, and Android 7.0 “Nougat.”

For the differing specs, the S8 features a 5.8″ Infinity Super AMOLED (Quad HD+, 2960×1440, 571ppi) display and 3,000mAh battery, while the S8+ features a 6.2″ Infinity Super AMOLED (Quad HD+, 2960×1440, 529ppi) display and 3,500mAh battery.

On paper, it might be hard find devices as good as the Galaxy S8 or S8+ at the moment. However, there’s always something to complain about. One could hope Samsung could find a way to fit bigger batteries into these things even though they are incredibly thin phones. The cameras didn’t receive much of an upgrade either this year either, but they were already so good in the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, it’s not like you’ll hear anyone actually complaining.

Design

The design of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ is where these devices shine. It’s gorgeous and Samsung outdid themselves this time around. If you haven’t held these devices, think of them like the Galaxy Note 7, but with no home button on the front. In-hand, the Galaxy S8 feels like no other device I’ve held, and it could possibly be my all-time favorite phone to hold. I can’t quite say the same for the Galaxy S8+, simply because of its size. Don’t get me wrong, the S8+ is still nice, but not as nice as the smaller S8.

Both phones are covered in glass, with metal along the siding. I don’t typically bring up the slipperiness of a phone, but the S8 and S8+ feel so darn good when sliding your finger along the display and interacting with things. Buttery smooth. Along the bottom is a USB Type-C port, as well as Kellen’s favorite placement for the 3.5mm headphone hack.

galaxy s8 review

In this design section, I could rip Samsung’s placement of a dedicated hardware button for Bixby, but I’ll get to that in the software section below. Because there are applications that allow for the remapping of Bixby, you can’t necessarily hate the added button. If you want quicker access to Google Now or Assistant, you have that choice. If Samsung ups and kills that “exploit” yet again, then we’ll have some words for Samsung, but until then, just customize the button however you might see fit. I will say, I have accidentally pressed the Bixby button a few times, though it’s not a constant mishap that has me screaming in my sleep.

I could also bring up Samsung’s placement of the fingerprint reader in this section, but again, I’ll save that for where it belongs – down in the not-so-good.

While ripping on those things is easy, I must also praise Samsung’s inclusion of on-screen buttons. They really help this design. I know a few may not be fans of the icons used, but hey, too late now. I give major props to Samsung for taking the chance on them, because you know company executives had countless meetings regarding the ditching of the home button. Think about the engineers who had sleepless nights over that damned home button. Either way, it’s gone, and the world seems like a better place without it.

Display

Infinity. Display.

2017 has been awesome for display technology. Earlier this year, LG gave us the G6, with its extremely minimal bezels and we loved that. Now, Samsung is giving us the Infinity display, and let me tell you, this is slick. On the sides you have a curve that gently trickles over the sides of the device, but it’s not as drastic as it was on the Galaxy S6 Edge. It’s rounded smoothly, not a steep drop off.

On the regular S8, you have a 5.8″ Super AMOLED panel, rocking a resolution of QHD+ or 2960×1440 for those here that speak pixel. With regard to the aspect ratio, it’s much like LG’s on the G6, but with fewer software additions to benefit the size, at least from what I saw.

galaxy s8 review

On the G6, LG built in software tweaks for the camera and entire modes to help users benefit from the ratio. On the Galaxy S8 and S8+, you don’t really get the sense that this is something new or great, just that it makes your YouTube videos look weird due to black bars on the sides or the stretched look when you “optimize” them. However, I will say that apps tend to act more naturally on the S8 than the G6, but there’s still a few that have issues. I have problems inside of Snapchat with this aspect ratio, and I’ve also had someone report they had issues with Instagram. Considering this whole 18:9 (G6) and 18.5:9 (S8, S8+) thing is new, I’ll give the developers some time to optimize their work.

One tweak made on the S8 and S8+ that I cannot live without, as it has become standard on almost all other devices, is the Blue Light Filter. Finally, Samsung, you did it. Instead of being blinded by the AMOLED’s retina-piercing colors (that’s a compliment), I’m now able to view my device at night and in the morning while laying in bed with no strain to my eyeballs. If you aren’t a user yourself of blue light filters on your device, get with it, folks.

Camera

For the camera in both the Galaxy S8 and S8+, Samsung is utilizing a Sony-made IMX333, very similar to what was found in last year’s Galaxy S7. While some may have expected a big upgrade, as Samsung tends to do each year, there isn’t all that much to improve in terms of overall quality. I mean, the S7 and S8 are some of the best shooters out there already. Not to say that you can’t improve upon it, you can, but I’m not over here crying about it.

For specs, the rear-facing shooter is 12MP, f/1.7 with phase detection auto focus, OIS, 1.4 µm, 4K video support, slow-mo (not 1000FPS as was reported), and support for 60FPS at FHD. This all adds up to a fantastic shooting experience, with the auto focus speed really blowing the doors down.

 

We recently conducted a camera showdown between the S8, Pixel, and G6. What we learned is that you can’t go wrong with any of the high-end smartphone shooting experiences, with the S8 really excelling in certain areas. It does have its cons, though. For example, the S8 tends to let in a lot of light, leaving some pictures overexposed. It does handle color quite well, especially purples and greens. I’ve found that Samsung phones deliver a certain warmness to photos, too, which others may see as just a yellowish hue. A lot of this is subjective, so I’ll typically just let the photos speak for themselves.

As for the software, the camera app is getting better yet again. Samsung used to bloat the heck out of the camera, but things seem much more streamlined. You’ve got your video and photo modes, as well as Slow-Mo, Food, Pro (enhanced scene settings), Hyperlapse, Panorama, Virtual Shot, Selective Focus, and you can even download others if you want. Point being, you probably won’t come across a shot you can’t handle, which is all anyone can ask for.

We have a ton of camera samples below, so give those a look.

Performance

Whenever I use a Samsung device, I have flashbacks to the Galaxy S5. How far we have come since then. Samsung’s latest UI and the overall system seems extremely snappy, with much of the credit going to the Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM. From my experience, it’s a quick phone, one that is hard to slow down.

During my time with the S8 and S8+, I noticed a consistent experience on both models, which left me happy. I could dive into apps quickly, hit that recent apps button, then dive right into another. During gaming, I never experienced real lag or jank, which is something I’m always on the look for. I also didn’t run into any random reboots or freezes.

Inside the Settings menu, there’s a section for Device Maintenance. With this, Samsung assigns a numerical value to your device’s performance. If it’s low you can hit “Optimize,” which then clears up your memory and closes background apps. It’s like a task killer from back in the day. When I did experience a tad bit of lag, I went in there and hit Optimize, which freed up the phone rather well, I’d say. If you come across your own hiccup, don’t be afraid to go in there and give it a tap from time to time.

Somewhere in the Middle


Software

Considering the Galaxy S8 and S8+ might be the best hardware in the game, you should expect nothing but excellence from its software, too. And while I stress that Samsung’s skin has matured into something much better than it used to be, it’s still not as elegant or easy to navigate as vanilla Android.

Once you get beyond the skin deep tweaks, such as subtle animations and popup bubbles that alert you of incoming messages, which all look and feel fantastic by the way, you realize that there are a few things that Samsung still can’t quite nail down. For example, if we look at an app folder that isn’t full of app shortcuts, the folder utilizes the entirety of the display, which is an awful waste of space. Not only that, but while I appreciate Samsung’s inclusion of an app drawer that you slide open, it does seem odd that I can swipe up or down to get into it, and when I attempt to swipe through apps, I will sometimes close the drawer because I can swipe up or down to close it, too.

 

These are the minor things that irk me, and when it comes down to it, this is why I say that Samsung’s skin has matured very well. It’s getting better, but there’s just minor things here and there that some may find bothersome. One areas in particular that has improved would be the Settings menu, which is completely navigable and no longer a labyrinth of confusing text and endless options. There’s Google Assistant, too, something I use on countless occasions. That does bring me to Bixby, though, Samsung’s wannabe digital assistant. Let’s discuss, shall we?

Bixby, at this exact point in time, is not Bixby. What Samsung shipped out on the S8 and S8+ is some half baked Google Now, perfect for absolutely nothing. Will that change? Yes it will, so I find it useless to sit here for an hour and bash something that is not even ready for the public. I will say, Bixby Vision is up and running on most S8 and S8+ devices, and that’s pretty cool. With it, I can snap a photo of toilet paper, then it will take me to Amazon to buy more toilet paper. When I showed this off to my girlfriend, she had that look of, “Hmm, I want to be impressed, but is this really the future of handheld computing?” Yes, my dear, yes it is.

Later this year, we can expect Samsung to formally launch Bixby, with its voice activated commands and broader usability. I will try to reserve most of my judgement for that time, which should be rather soon. Once available, we’ll definitely have a standalone review over of Bixby and what it is actually capable of.

 

Battery

On the Galaxy S8, I’ve seen pretty average battery life. In a typical day, I’d have about 10-20% juice left with 3-4 hours of screen on time. Not too bad, not too good. Typical and average. On the Galaxy S8+, though, I was seeing much better numbers. Provided it does have a bigger battery, I was going to bed with a solid 30-40% each night, always getting somewhere between 3-4 hours of screen on time. That’s much better and unlike the regular S8, I wasn’t too worried about running out of juice before bedtime.

I will say, I would love for a flagship, top tier device to come around that isn’t just average. I know it’s hard to jam a 4,500mAh battery in these ultra thin devices, but really, I’m okay with a somewhat thicker device. I’m not talking brick in the pocket, but come on already. Considering how many people value battery life, one of these companies will surely answer our prayers at some point.

Galaxy S8

Galaxy S8+

The Not-so-Good


Fingerprint Reader Placement

Worst fingerprint reader placement ever? Well, technically, yes, but only because this is the first device I’ve ever used with such a poor place for it. I mean, we’re all about having it on the backside, but up by the camera? Sorry, that won’t work for me.

Interestingly enough, before the S8 was announced and all we had were rumors and renders, I wrote my thoughts down about this positioning and essentially all of my fears were confirmed — I have placed my nasty little grease fingers on the camera’s glass way too many times to be comfortable with.

Now, on the Galaxy S8, I’ve at least been able to get somewhat used to the spot. Once I take the phone out of my pocket, I’m getting pretty good at where my finger goes. On the S8+, though, I simply don’t care for it whatsoever. In fact, I don’t even try to use it and just rely on facial recognition and using a pattern unlock to get into my phone. The fingerprint reader is just not worth the trouble.

Is it safe to say we never see this placement again? Samsung is typically pretty good at listening to feedback, so my hope is yes. It may be on the Note 8 later this year, but once Samsung and Synaptics have their fingerprint reader under glass tech complete, we should never have to deal with this again.

Software Updates

No, the Galaxy S8 and S8+ are not Pixel devices. You won’t see super fast software updates. Should that surprise you? Absolutely not. We’re Android users, so we’re used to this. On the upside, the S8 and S8+ ship with Nougat and Samsung has been very good about delivering monthly security updates. You can’t really ask for much more from a company that isn’t Google. Considering these are Samsung’s latest and there’s no Note 7 devices to update, Samsung’s main efforts should be focused entirely on the S7, S7 Edge, S8, and S8+. That should be manageable for Samsung.

Other Notes


  • Headphone jack – It’s got one! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Apple!
  • Expandable storage – MicroSD cards are here to stay apparently and we’re very happy about this. You can load up your phone with as much as 256GB of extra storage.
  • Girlfriend impressions – My girlfriend is out of town this week, but I recall her mentioning she thought the S8 was oddly small for how large the display is. For the S8+, she wasn’t a fan. Too big for her girly hands.
  • Samsung Pay – If my bank would ever support Samsung Pay, maybe I could talk about it. Until then, I’ve heard great things, but hey, what can you do? My bank sucks.
  • Fast charging and wireless charging – Fast charging or some variant of it is basically offered on every high-end and mid-tier phone sold these days. On the S8 and S8+, you can get a wireless charger that is “fast” charging, which is awesome. If you have yet to invest in a wireless charger for your compatible phone, do it.

Availability


Provided these are Samsung flagships we’re talking about, you can find them everywhere. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, or wherever else you might be a customer. Pricing differs for each, so you will need to check with your carrier of choice for the latest details. Be sure to check Best Buy and Samsung’s site directly, as you could always find a random deal or promo taking place.

Videos


Unboxing

First 10 Things to Do

Best Cases for the Galaxy S8 / S8+

Gallery


 

Samsung Galaxy S8 Review:  Greatness or nah?


I’ve seen plenty of people say they don’t like the Galaxy S8. Why is that? Is it just because they’re haters of everything Samsung? I mean, even if you’re a Samsung hater, it’s hard to dislike the Galaxy S8, at least in my view. It’s one of the more beautiful devices to ever launch (yes, I know, beauty is subjective), it has fantastic specs, and Samsung’s custom software has come such a long way from the TouchWiz days of old. Seriously, get over it.

Now, should you run out and buy this phone? I’d recommend it, for sure, but it’s not the only phone I’d recommend. There’s a lot of great options out there and the S8/S8+ are just two of the best. You’ve got the G6 from LG that’s nice, plus plenty of other upcoming devices to look forward to. If you’re in the market, though, and need a phone right now, you’d be crazy not to at least consider the Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+, depending on how big your pockets are.

Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy S8 Review is a post from: Droid Life

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