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Moto G5 Plus review

Moto G5 Plus review:

A worthy successor to the Moto G4 Plus

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Every time a new phone is launched, user’s hopes are pinned on the new features that it comes bundled with. That said, a successor or an upgrade is worthy of being called so, only if it fixes all that was wrong with its predecessor. We’re talking about the newly-launchedMoto G5 Plus.

From design to hardware, there’s a lot that Lenovo-owned Motorola has brought to the table with the G5 Plus. And all these improvements add up to make the Moto G5 Plus a much better device than its predecessor – Moto G4 Plus. But, since budget smartphones are on the rise in the Indian market, is the G5 Plus a good upgrade? Is it any better than competitors like Xiaomi, Honor etc? We got to spend some time with the device and this is what we think.

Design

Moto G5 Plus follows the footsteps of the company’s premium devices – Moto Z Play and Moto Z, in terms of design and ditching the plastic body for an aluminium finish. It is safe to say that the company has crafted a good-looking device in the budget segment.

The G5 Plus has a non-removable back panel with a round protruding hump for the primary camera module, along with an engraved Motorola logo below it.

Having a 5.2-inch display, the G5 Plus feels both thinner and smaller than the G4 Plus. The aluminium body has a matte finish with the borders sporting a glossy lining. The volume and power keys are placed on the right edge, while the SIM tray is located on the top. The bottom edge houses a microUSB charging port and the 3.5mm audio jack.

There’s a fingerprint sensor at the bottom of the display, while the front camera, earpiece (which also doubles up as a mono speaker) and sensors are up top. It all looks fine, however we would’ve appreciated capacitive buttons instead of on-screen ones, as they would’ve helped in saving some screen space.

Since the phone comes with a 5.2-inch display, it feels way thinner and smaller in hand. One handed usage is easier as well. The device has a good amount of weight to it and the matte finish gives it a better grip, in addition to enhancing the premium appearance.
Skipping to the display the Moto G5 Plus+ sports a 5.2 inch IPS LCD Full HD screen with 1,080×1,920 pixel resolution. While the display is crisp and has accurate colour reproduction, we found the sunlight legibility to be a little less, even with the brightness level set to maximum. That said, the display is great to work with indoors and in well-lit conditions. Viewing angles are nice too.

Over that, the display is protected with a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The display comes with water-repellent nano coating. All in all, we found the Moto G5 Plus to be a good-looking device, which comes in two colour options – Lunar Grey and Fine Gold.

Performance

Moto G5 Plus is the first smartphone in its price segment to come with Google’s latest Android operating system Nougat out-of-the-box and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset with an Adreno 506 GPU. There are two configurations based on RAM and internal storage – 3GB RAM/16GB storage and 4GB RAM/32GB storage, and both support microSD cards of up to 128GB in size. We used the latter.

The fingerprint sensor worked fast during our testing and it unlocks the phone almost instantly. We ran the GeekBench test and the Moto G5 Plus scored 784 in single-core performance. It got a multi-core score of 3,741 in the same test. While in the AnTuTu Benchmark it scored a total of 63,349. These are decent scores for a budget smartphone. Overall performance during our time with the device was up to the mark, and everything from multitasking to random app switching worked seamlessly.

We even tried heavy games like WWE Immortals and Justice League and the smartphone handled them without breaking a sweat. The Full HD display makes content consumption a great experience on this smartphone.
Moto G5 Plus is 4G VoLTE enabled. During our usage, we found the call quality to be good. The phone easily latches on to the networks and we did not face any call drops (partly because we were in good network zone).

Having dual nano-SIM support, the G5 Plus’s additional SIM slot can also be used to hold a microSD card. The mono loudspeaker is good, however a louder one would have been so much better if you wanted to share the screen with friends.

Since it comes with the latest version of Android, the Moto G5 Plus has all the standard Nougat features like split-view multitasking and quick replies from notifications. We found all these to be quite helpful for a satisfying user experience.

Moto G5 Plus was touted as the first non-Pixel smartphone to come with Google Assistant. However, the smartphone does not come with Google Assistant out of the box. Reports suggest that the company will be rolling out a software update for the same.

What’s notable about the Moto G5 Plus is that it comes with near-stock Android. There are almost zero bloat ware apps, and the convenient Motorola additions such as gestures make everything even better.

The Motorola Moto G5 Plus packs a 3,000mAh battery. During our usage, it lasted for almost an entire day with moderate to heavy use. Thanks to turbo charging functionality, you can charge the battery to around 55-60% in just 15 minutes. However, overall standby time will obviously depend upon individual usage.

The Moto G5 Plus has 12MP rear camera with f/1.7 aperture, colour-balancing dual-LED flash and 8X digital zoom. It can also recognize barcodes and QR codes. During our tests, we found the photos taken from the G5 Plus’s rear camera to be impressive. The images have bright colours and are quite sharp. What’s best about the camera is that it can record 4K video at 30fps, in addition to shooting Full HD video at 60/30fps and HD quality at 30 fps.

However, since the device only supports Full HD screen resolution, 4K videos shot on the device can only be viewed on any other 4k device.

The front shooter has a 5MP module with wide-angle lens, f/2.2 aperture. On the test bench, we found the selfie camera to be just average. It gets the job done, but we won’t call it anything extraordinary.

Ditching the plastic body is a correct move by Motorola, it is high time budget devices got the premium quality appearance as midrange and flagship devices. In the G5 Plus, Motorola has a phone that can be even more successful than its predecessor. It has everything that we liked from the G4 Plus and comes with a few extras. At the global launch event of the smartphone, Moto G5 Plus was touted as the first non-Pixel smartphone to come with Google Assistant.

If you’re looking for alternatives in the similar price bracket, you can look at the Huawei Honor 6X.

MOTOROLA MOTO G5 PLUS

SCORE:- 8.0 

GOOD STUFF:

  • A mostly-premium design despite low price
  • Runs like a flagship phone most of the time
  • Long battery life
  • Works on any carrier
  • 4K Video recording

BAD STUFF:

  • Large bezels cancel out compact screen
  • Camera doesn’t live up to expectations
  • Software updates aren’t guaranteed

HANDS ON: ASUS ZENBOOK 3

Asus gave its Zenbook a Mac makeover, and the result is beautiful!!!!

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asus zenbook  hands on

 

 

Apple’s MacBook is a decent notebook, but it has problems, particularly in performance. Its Core M processor just isn’t as quick as some users desire.
Enter Asus, and the Zenbook 3, which asks a simple question. Why compromise? Core M is efficient, but is it really necessary to create a super-slim, portable system? Asus doesn’t think so. And hopes its latest notebook — which can be purchased with up to a Core i7 dual-core — will be the proof.

A form of flattery
The new Zenbook 3 looks very similar to Apple’s MacBook at first glance. And second. And third. The shared use of all metal-design with a broad, single display hinge and speakers above the keyboard makes the resemblance uncanny.

 

Asus Zenbook 3
Yet there are major differences. The Zenbook 3 has a smaller touchpad, and matches the color of the keys to the body, decisions that create some distance between the Apple and the Asus. More importantly, the Zenbook 3 boasts the shiniest version of the brand’s distinctive, circular pattern that we’ve seen in years. Fingerprint magnet? You bet. But it does look wonderful when clean.
Computex 2016: Gigabyte’s new Aero 14 will give you 10 hours of GTX 970M-powered usage

The specifications peg the Zenbook 3 at no thicker than .46 inches, and it weighs in at just a sliver above two pounds. These numbers feel appropriate when the system is handled. It’s hard to believe it’s an actual, working notebook – but then you open it, and the thin-bezel display turns on.
Yes, the new Zenbook 3 has bezels that rival the Dell XPS 13. And they’re needed. While the system is similar in size and weigh to a MacBook, it actually has a slightly bigger 12.5-inch display. That may not seem like a big deal, but the extra screen real estate is noticeable. The MacBook’s screen comes across as a serious downgrade, in terms of usable real-estate, if you’re used to a 13-inch ultrabook. The Zenbook 3 is still small, but more tolerable in day-to-day use.
The key to the plan
We weren’t surprised to hear Asus talk up the keyboard. That’s one of the MacBook’s biggest flaws, and any competitor needs to address how it’ll fix it. The Zenbook 3 claims to do so the old-fashioned way – double the physical key travel.
It was clear the Zenbook 3’s keyboard has the MacBook beat.
The few minutes we spent with the new Zenbook made it clear Asus has beat Apple in this area. We immediately noticed the extra key travel, and it helped us more readily tell when a key was activated. Asus has made the keyboard edge-to-edge, so the layout didn’t feel in the least bit cramped.
But that’s not to say the keyboard is perfect. The key travel is alright, but it’s still a step behind the best ultrabooks. That’s notable because Asus itself makes some of the best ultrabook keyboards around – the Asus Zenbook UX305CA’s keys are superb. Compared to that standard, the Zenbook 3 feels vague and imprecise.
The touchpad is a similar situation. It seems fine. But only that – fine. If the MacBook is the benchmark the Zenbook 3 is to be judged against, then this is one area it doesn’t match up. The surface appears a bit smaller (we’d have to measure to be sure) and lacks the wonderfully smooth feel of the MacBook.
Powering up
The processor inside the Zenbook 3 is a standard Core mobile chip, rather than the less powerful Core M. That is a key selling point. Our reviews have consistently found that Core M is about 30 percent (or more) behind “standard” Core.

Asus Zenbook 3

We can’t judge the performance of the Zenbook 3 on the show floor. But performance doesn’t deviate much, so we expect the entry-level model will be competitive with the MacBook Air and mid-tier Dell XPS 13, while the high-end model will run with the quickest laptops around.
The big question is not if the processor will perform, but instead if the Zenbook 3 will keep its cool.
The big question is not if the processor will perform, but instead if the Zenbook 3 will keep its cool. A fan that’s just 3 millimeters thick is required to keep the laptop’s thin profile, and it probably doesn’t push a lot of air. For what it’s worth, the floor models didn’t feel overly warm.
Battery life is another concern. Asus quotes nine hours — an optimistic figure. The battery is rated at 40 watt hours, which is not tiny, but also not large. For reference, the Asus Zenbook UX305UA, with a 45 watt-hour battery, hit almost nine hours in the iMacro web browsing test. We expect the Zenbook 3 will achieve seven to eight hours in the same test.

Conclusion
There’s a lot to like about the Zenbook 3, at least when compared to its target, the MacBook. Asus’ ultrabook is faster. It has a better keyboard. It’s less expensive.

We’re not blown over by this Zenbook just yet, however. Asus’ other models, while not always the most attractive, are an incredible value. The Zenbook UX305CA is super-light, but only $700 (and it’s actually $600 at many retailers). The UX305UA offers competitive performance and strong battery life for $750.

The Zenbook 3, at $1,000, is comparatively expensive. And we’re not sure it has much to offer except a smaller footprint. Asus’ problem is that it’s already raised the bar so high, that hurdling it will be a herculean task. But that, as problems go, isn’t a bad one to have.

Highs
Extremely thin and light
Uses “standard” Core i5 and i7 processors
More affordable than competitors

Lows
Keyboard travel is still shallow
Might run hot, due to thin profile

 

 

 

Xiaomi Mi 3 review: The way of the dragon

Introduction

Xiaomi one of the largest smartphone vendors in its homeland – China – and it’s one of the most popular Asian mobile brands. It has given the world the popular user-friendly MIUI for Android. But the crown jewel, of course, is their current flagship phone – the Xiaomi Mi 3.

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is the company’s best-selling phone to date packing top-notch technology and blazing-fast Android experience. The MIUI launcher feels at home on a Xiaomi phone delivering amazing performance. It is very easy to use and yet hides some powerful functions and services for advanced users.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 official pictures

The Mi 3 has it all – a wonderful unibody design made out of polycarbonate, a 5″ IPS display of 1080p resolution, a top-notch Snapdragon 800 chipset with 2GB of RAM, a capable 13MP camera with Full HD video recording, and a massive 3,050 mAh battery for long-lasting smartphone experience.

Sounds great, right? Here comes the complete feature list.

Key features

  • 5″ IPS 1080p capacitive touchscreen with 441pi pixel density; Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat with MIUI v.5
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Krait 400 CPU; 2GB of RAM; Adreno 330 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset
  • 13MP camera with dual-LED flash, 1080p video capture
  • 2MP front-facing camera with BSI sensor; wide-angle f/2.0 lens; HDR; 1080p video recording
  • 16/64 GB of built-in memory
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated microphone
  • 3,050mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • No LTE
  • No 4K video recording
  • Non user-replaceable battery
  • No wired TV-out connectivity option
  • No microSD card slot
  • Sold exclusively online

The implementation of a unibody shell has required some sacrifices though, as in the inability to replace your battery being the most major. The lack of microSD card slot is surely a bummer for some, but this trend seems to be spreading among lots of popular manufacturers lately. The lack of 4K video isn’t something we would hold against it, if it wasn’t for its flagship status.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 live photos

Enough with the small talk, let’s get down to business, shall we? Our Xiaomi Mi 3 exterior tour kicks off right after the jump.

Unboxing the Xiaomi Mi 3

Xiaomi Mi 3 comes in a pretty much standard box, made out of recycled paper. Inside we find a basic set of accessories – a microUSB, a 1A wall plug and a SIM ejector pin.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 retail box

XiaomiShop.com, the provider of our review unit, throws in a bunch of freebies in every box and ours came with a screen protector, a fancy flip case, an EU adapter, a USB car charger plug, and a small capacitive stylus that conveniently plugs into the 3.5mm audio jack.

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The accessories XiaomiShop throws in for free

Xiaomi Mi 3 360-degree spin

Xiaomi Mi 3 spreads at 144 x 73.6 x 8.1 mm and weighs about 145g. This is exactly the same footprint as Sony Xperia Z1’s, but lighter. Unfortunately this means the Xiaomi Mi 3 also has rather big screen bezels.

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Design and build quality

The Xiaomi Mi 3 features a stylish polycarbonate chassis that wraps around the sides of the device a lot like some Nokia Lumia phone do. While this makes the 3050mAh battery inaccessible, the rounded edges mean the device is a pleasure to hold. We’ve always liked Nokia’s choice of materials for its top Lumia models and we are glad to see the polycarbonate working out for another brand.

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Xiaomi Mi 3

The rear side finish promises no nasty fingerprint smudges. The pitch black front contributes to the overall classy feeling and is very easy to clean. You can barely see where the IPS display ends and the frame begins.

Xiaomi Mi 3 was designed to look and feel like the flagship device it is. You will easily pick it up when put in whatever lineup of devices no matter it doesn’t bet on any iconic elements as some of its competitors. It is likeable and beautiful, thoughtfully designed with usability and style in mind.

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Handling the Xiaomi Mi 3

Handling the Xiaomi Mi 3 is as pleasurable as it can get – the polycarbonate unibody is solid and provides great grip thanks to its matte surface. The Mi 3 is just 8mm thin, but its wide footprint doesn’t allow you to forget it’s in your pocket.

Display

The Xiaomi Mi 3 features a 5″ Full HD IPS display with a pixel density of 441ppi, which places it among the best in-class. It’s covered by Gorilla Glass 3 for protection against scratches and cracks from pressure.

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The 5″ IPS display Xiaomi Mi 3

Here is the display matrix of the Xiaomi Mi 3 shot from upclose. Taking a closer look at it under our digital microscope reveals a standard RGB arrangement of the sub-pixels that make up the Xiaomi Mi 3 LCD panel, not that we’ve expected anything else.

Xiaomi Mi 3

The display on the Xiaomi Mi 3 is bright enough at 100% with good contrast and colors. Unfortunately dropping the brightness reduces the contrast and the screen becomes dim very soon, which makes us believe 50% of the brightness scrubber is way below 50% of the actual brightness.

Unfortunately, the brightness of the screen is uneven with the backlight source being pretty visible at the top of the screen. When you have a white page opened on the screen you can easily notice the gradual brightness falloff from top to bottom. On the positive side, that’s only visible with a full-on white or gray screen – in any other case it’s as good as invisible.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Xiaomi Mi 3 0.18 142 809 0.61 557 907
LG G2 0.1 149 1522 0.45 667 1495
Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 0 201 0 404
Sony Xperia Z1 0.38 580 1513
Huawei Ascend P7 0.13 101 807 0.79 668 843
Oppo Find 7a 0.33 280 842 0.68 580 852
Sony Xperia Z2 0.41 488 1195
Gionee Elife S5.5 0 178 0 330

The sunlight legibility isn’t great, but the Xiaomi Mi 3’s display is still usable outside and you will be able to see what’s happening on the screen.

Sunlight contrast ratio:

1

Xiaomi is providing options for color temperature and saturation. Glove mode is available too, but you probably shouldn’t leave that turned on if you don’t need it because it may drain your battery faster.

Finally there is an option to prevent accidental unlocks of your screen, while the phone is in your pocket. If enabled, you won’t be able to unlock the scren while something is covering the proximity sensor. Again, that would take its toll on the battery life.

Controls

Exploring all the Xiaomi Mi 3 controls brings no surprises. On the front we find the 5″ IPS 1080p display protected by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Above the screen go the earpiece, the ambient light and proximity sensor, as well as the 2MP front-facing camera.

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The 5″ display • looking above and below the screen

Unlike most of the phones we get to review today, the Xiaomi Mi 3 brings back the capacitive control deck below the display thus not cutting off screen resolution. The trio uses the older arrangement with Menu, Home and Back keys.

There is absolutely nothing on the phone’s left side but things get busier on the right. The volume rocker is there, along with the power/lock key.

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The left side is perfectly bare • the volume rocker and the power/lock key are on the right

At the top has the 3.5mm audio jack, the secondary microphone and the miniSIM tray. Moving on to the bottom of the phone we find the microUSB port right next to a huge grille hiding the loudspeaker and the primary microphone.

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A peek at the top and bottom of the Xiaomi Mi 3

The back of the device is where the 13MP camera lens and dual LED flash can be found.

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The 13MP camera lens is on the back

The 3,050 mAh battery hides beneath the polycarbonate rear shell and is non-removable. There is no microSD card slot on the Xiaomi Mi 3 either.

Battery Life

Xiaomi has put a 3,050mAh battery inside the Mi 3, quite an impressive unit for a 5″ device. We ran our battery test and the Xiaomi Mi 3 scored 66 hours, which means you can count on few hours short of 3 days if you do an hour each of calling, web browsing and playing video per day.

Xiaomi Mi 3

Note that we’ve tested the web browser test on Google Chrome, as the default MIUI browser crashed occasionally during our traditional battery routine.

Connectivity

Even though the Xiaomi MI 3 runs on the capable Snapdragon 800 chipset it lacks LTE connectivity. It relies on quad-band GSM connectivity and quad-band 3G connectivity with HSPA support.

The rest of the connectivity features include dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and Wi-Fi Direct. There is also support for Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS, plus an FM radio.

There is NFC connectivity, too, with support for Android Beam for sending files to other Android devices.

There is a microUSB 2.0 port for charging and data connections. Media transfer mode is supported for accessing the phone’s built-in memory and microSD card over a USB connection.

There’s also USB On-the-go for connecting USB peripherals such as pen drives, keyboards or real USB hard drives.

The microUSB port doesn’t have any TV-out functionality, but if you have a compatible HDTV, you can mirror your phone’s screen wirelessly via the Miracast protocol.

User interface – MIUI v5 on top of Android 4.4 KitKat

Xiaomi Mi 3 runs on Android 4.4.2 KitKat out of the box skinned with company’s proprietary MIUI v5. The MIUI ROMs have been around for quite a while and are fairly popular among the Android community. Xiaomi’s customizations run very deep and replace everything including all Google services, but you can get them from the Mi Market.

In fact some regional versions of the Mi 3 come with the Google Services built right in so you don’t even need to install them. The Mi 3 review unit we have is for the Chinese market, so there might be differences with other regional versions.

Here’s quick walkthrough of the MIUI v5 on video to get you started:

The lockscreen looks very familiar and we’ve already seen similar in Huawei’s Emotion UI. There is centered circle with shortcuts in the four cardinal directions: simple unlock to the South, start the camera to the North, messaging is to the East and the dialer/call log is to the West.

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The MIUI v5 lockscreen

Beyond the lockscreen is the Android homescreen with four customizable shortcuts docked at the bottom, but you can dock up to five items. The default selection is phone app, contacts, camera, and messages but you can have any app really, or folders with multiple items, visible on all homescreens.

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The MIUI homescreens • there is no app drawer

There is no app drawer – anything you install pops up on your unlimited number of homescreens. There’re no shortcuts and the usual routine of removing icons (dragging them up to a recycle bin at the top of the screen) will uninstall the corresponding app. The thing is fool-proof and you can’t accidentally uninstall essential apps like the gallery or email client.

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Homescreen overview • launcher settings

Widgets are available too – tap and hold on the homescreen, then choose Widgets. Of course, you can get third party widgets from the Play Store.

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Customization menu • widgets • wallpapers • transition effects

By the way, Xiaomi’s proprietary Search widget does a similar job as iOS’s Spotlight system-wide search. It even goes further and suggests internet search results.

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MIUI’s Search widget

Homescreen effects are available from the customization menu. You can change themes, too. A theme will change your homescreen wallpaper, lockscreen style, system icons, system font and the sound profile.

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Themes repository

The notification area has two tabs – the first one holds all notifications, while the second is a 4×4 grid of toggles. You can add, remove and rearrange toggles. The Quick Settings tab is the one that opens by default unless you have unread notifications. Nice touch!

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Toggles • Notifications • Expandable notifications

The task switcher has the icons of all currently opened apps in a single row plus there is a Clean All shortcut to kill all apps.

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The task switcher • killing all and freeing up some RAM

Xiaomi provides its own app repository and cloud service for content syncing between devices. While the Mi Market somewhat mirrors the Play Store functionality, Mi Cloud is a different story.

Each Mi Cloud account is granted with 5GB of free storage. You can use it to backup contacts, messages, your entire gallery, call log, notes, settings, voice recordings, Browser content (history, tabs, webapp data) and your music library. Sounds familiar? Yes, indeed! Xiaomi’s sync and backup service shares lots of similarities with the Apple iCloud. There is even a free Cloud Messaging option that allows Xiaomi users to exchange messages over the internet connection instead of being billed for SMS.

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Configuring Mi Cloud and Cloud Messaging

Finally, if you singed in with your Mi Cloud account you can opt for the Find device function – a handy feature in case you lose your Xiaomi Mi 3 or someone steals it.

As far as the smart assistants are concerned – you can either opt for the familiar Google Now (you can install Google Search if it is no available by default) or you can launch Xiaomi’s proprietary Voice Assistant. The latter looks a lot like Siri in both user interface and functionality, but unfortunately works only in Chinese and we couldn’t test it as our Chinese is a bit… rusty.

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Xiaomi’s Assist

The virtual assistant is summoned with a tap and hold on the Menu key and you can configure the default on – Google Now or Xiaomi’s.

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The voice assistant menu • Google Now

Performance

Xiaomi Mi 3 runs on the popular and powerful Snapdragon 800 chipset with a quad-core 2.3GHz Krait 400 processor, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. The Mi 3 comes with a 1080p display, which means the smartphone should be on par with the 2013 flagships featuring the same combo – Samsung Galaxy Note 3, LG G2, Sony Xperia Z1, plus the recently launched Oppo Find 7a.

Our first tests explores the raw CPU power, but for some reason Xiaomi Mi 3 fails to impress here. We did the test a couple of times, but either the app or the software optimizations are incompatible with the GeekBench 3 CPU benchmark.

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Things immediately got better when we ran the AnTuTu compound tests, which in addition to the CPU calculations, throws in GPU and RAM routines, too. The Xiaomi Mi 3 gets an excellent mark here.

3

We’ve tested both regular and anti-cheat version of the popular Basemark OS II benchmark and we found the Xiaomi Mi 3 doesn’t use any tricks to boost the scores. It does excellent on all three test we keep track of, so you shouldn’t worry about any performance hiccups.

4

The Adreno 330 is a wide-spread GPU core and we already knew what to expect. The Xiaomi Mi 3 is on par with the Oppo Find 7a and beating the rest of the competition in both the on-screen and off-screen tests.

5

The Open GL ES3.0 Manhattan test puts the Xiaomi Mi 3 among the best devices we’ve tested o far.

6

The BrowserMark 2.1 tests HTML 5 performance, while Mozilla’s Kraken 1.1 is JavaScript-centric. The Xiaomi Mi 3 did great on Kraken, but somewhat average on the compound BrowserMark test.

7

Xiaomi Mi 3 and its Snapdragon 800 chipsets deliver excellent raw performance and provide hiccup-free gaming and blazing-fast Android + MIUI performance. There is nothing the Xiaomi Mi 3 can’t do and it will have no one disappointed.

Contact management and telephony

The dialer and the phonebook share a single app although there are two shortcuts. The app uses a tabbed interface – recent with dialer, then there’s the contact list and directory (a.k.a. groups).

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The Phonebook

The Directory tab is updated automatically online and has various contacts for bars, restaurants, health clinics, flight agencies, hotels, cleaning services, among others. Unfortunately those work only in China, but if you are going to use your Xiaomi phone in China – then this should be of extreme value to you.

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Directory

Contact info is displayed as a list of all available details. Custom ringtones can be selected for each contact and duplicate contacts can be merged into a single entry.

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Managing a single contact

The dialer supports Smart dialing just fine (looking up both names and phone numbers).

Xiaomi Mi 3 supports voice call recording and it can do it automatically on each call if you like. You can also assign an answer gesture, pre-define quick responses upon reject, there is even support for internet calling.

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The Dialer • settings

There are even more call settings if you dig deeper into the menu – flip to mute the ringer, turn on/off the proximity sensor, lock automatically once slipped in a pocket, it can even mute calls from unknown numbers.

The Xiaomi Mi 3 scored a mark of Below average on our loudspeaker tests, meaning you are likely to miss some calls and notifications if you are in a noisy environment.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Sony Xperia Z1 65.7 61.3 66.7 Below Average
LG G2 65.7 62.2 66.2 Below Average
Xiaomi Mi 3 64.9 64.8 66.6 Below Average
Huawei Ascend P7 63.9 66.1 70.9 Below Average
Sony Xperia Z2 66.7 64.6 75.7 Average
Oppo Find 7a 71.7 66.6 75.7 Good
Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 70.6 66.2 77.3 Good
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9005 70.5 66.6 78.0 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini 73.5 67.7 78.7 Very Good
OnePlus One 74.8 73.5 80.2 Excellent

Messaging and email

The messaging department is pretty standard – there’s a list of all bubble-styled conversations organized into threads, with New Message and Search keys at the bottom and a settings button next to it.

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Messaging

Attaching multimedia to a message will turn it into an MMS. You can add everything from photos, videos, audio to general files. There’s even a full blown slide editor if you want to make full use of the MMS standard. The Attach location option is pretty nice too.

Moving on to email, the Gmail app (if included) has handy shortcuts at the bottom of the screen and supports batch operations, which allow multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. The default app supports multiple Gmail accounts, but there’s no unified inbox.

There is also a generic email app for all your other email accounts and it can handle multiple Exchange, POP or IMAP inboxes. You have access to the messages in the original folders that are created online, side by side with the standard local ones such as inbox, drafts and sent items.

MIUI relies on Google keyboard for the text input – it has always been pleasure to use and is one of the most preferred Android keyboards out there. On this screen the keys are comfortably large in both portrait and landscape mode. There is support for gesture typing, handwriting and voice input.

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Google keyboard

Image gallery

The Xiaomi Mi 3 comes with a custom Gallery app. It defaults to your camera roll with two shortcuts at the bottom that will take you to album view of your local images and album view of your cloud pictures. You can’t change this view, nor can you customize the default folders.

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Gallery

The available features when viewing a single image are pretty standard – set image as wallpaper/contact image, share it, delete it, enter edit mode or just get more info.

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Viewing a single image • options

The integrated editor offers various effects, frames, tools (crop, mirror, straighten, rotate, fisheye, doodle) plus light adjustments that let you bring out the shadows or the highlights.

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Editing an image

Music player

The MIUI music player is a custom app with a well-laid out, easy to navigate interface. It has a huge visualization screen doubling as a Now Playing windows. Below you get four non-customizable tabs – All Songs, Artists, Playlists and Online.

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Music Player

The Online tab is where you pay for the Baidu Music service, which allows you to listen to their huge online track collection. Here you can also find various internet radio stations you can listen for free.

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Online music and online radios

The player has cool 3D effects, transitions and transparent elements, especially on the expandable Now Playing section.

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Now Playing screen

Xiaomi’s Music app offers customizable equalizers with a few default presets already available for you. You can also try Xiaomi’s MiSound enhancer, which comes into play when you use Xiaomi-branded headphones.

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Audio enhancements and equalizers • Editing a song

Finally, you can edit song info and you can also enable automatic song info download in case the ID3 tags are empty. Lyrics can be downloaded, too.

FM radio

The phone has an FM receiver and supports radio recording. There is a sleep timer as well.

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FM radio app

Video player

Xiaomi’s video player has very basic interface but rich video decoder support. It managed to play everything we threw at it but WMV files. AC3 audio codec is supported too. Interestingly, the player won’t list MKV files, but it can still play them hassle-free, if you access them from the file manager.

The video player, just like the music player, offers access to a paid video streaming services for movies and TV shows.

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Video player

Subtitles and pop-up play are not supported by the MIUI’s Video app.

Mediocre audio quality

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is aiming at the proper flagship territory and it’s facing some pretty serious rivals when it comes to audio reproduction qualities. The smartphone will have to prove itself against the likes of Samsung Galaxy S5 and, more notably, the HTC One (M8).

Unfortunately, the Mi 3 just doesn’t have the skills to be anywhere near the level required to fight it out for the best music player around. Its performance with an active external amplifier was a mixed bag, combining below-par volume levels with disappointingly high stereo crosstalk and distortion levels and less than stellar frequency response. The other readings were good, but they weren’t enough to salvage more than a mediocre performance.

It was more of the same when we plugged in a pair of headphones. Stereo crosstalk worsened a bit more, while the other parts of the Mi 3 performance were at the same level as before. That’s normally a good thing, but given that they were somewhat disappointing to begin with, we don’t think it’s worth celebrating on this occasion.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Xiaomi Mi 3 +0.11, -1.52 -91.5 89.5 0.0037 0.359 -68.9
Xiaomi Mi 3 (headphones attached) +0.63, -1.01 -91.5 89.6 0.0092 0.365 -44.2
Nokia Lumia 930 +0.12, -0.02 -91.4 90.7 0.0099 0.101 -90.3
Nokia Lumia 930 (headphones attached) +0.19, -0.43 -89.4 90.7 0.012 0.501 -55.8
Samsung Galaxy S5 +0.02, -0.08 -96.3 93.3 0.0017 0.0089 -95.2
Samsung Galaxy S5 (headphones) +0.01, -0.08 -96.3 93.3 0.0095 0.018 -61.9
LG G3 +0.02, -0.08 -99.4 98.9 0.0016 0.035 -100.0
LG G3 (headphones attached) +0.02, -0.09 -93.7 93.3 0.0060 0.032 -78.5
Sony Xperia Z2 +0.02, -0.08 -88.2 90.1 0.0063 0.013 -88.9
Sony Xperia Z2 (headphones attached) +0.08, -0.04 -84.7 87.6 0.120 0.066 -60.2
HTC One (M8) +0.04, -0.10 -95.4 93.4 0.0012 0.010 -93.2
HTC One (M8) (headphones) +0.04, -0.08 -94.9 93.9 0.0014 0.018 -79.7

Xiaomi Mi 3 frequency response
Xiaomi Mi 3 frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

13 MP camera does a great job

Xiaomi Mi 3 features a 13MP camera coupled with a dual LED flash to help you with the low-light scenes.

The interface is fairly standard – everything is placed at the two side bars. On the left you get front camera shortcut, camera/camcorder switch and flash settings. The right sidebar has the settings toggle, the camera shutter and the gallery shortcut.

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Camera UI

The settings offer HDR, scenes, focus mode, white balance, exposure and ISO manual settings, among others. The Face Detection and Image stabilization switches are within the additional settings (the small gear key).

Xiaomi Mi 3’s camera resolves plenty of detail. The colors are somewhat oversaturated and the white balance sometimes is off, but overall, the Mi 3 image quality is great.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 camera samples

The HDR mode is conservative and rescues both the highlights and shadows without making the contrast too low.

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HDR off • HDR on • HDR off • HDR on

Panorama shots are available too – you can capture both landscape and portrait panoramic photos at about 180 degree. Shooting is easy but the stitching takes more than a minute to complete. The end result isn’t as impressive as we’ve expected – the portrait shots come in 3400x1200px pixels while the landscape mode results in 4000x700px.

While the panoramic images are stitched very well, the quality and resolution are below the competition. The exposure is way off, too.

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Xiaomi Mi 3
Panorama samples

Xiaomi Mi 3 features a 2MP front-facing camera for shooting 16:9 selfies. The images lack proper sharpness and are somewhat less saturated than we would like them to be. On the positive side, there is no visible geometrical distortion and closeups of faces turn out looking just fine.

An intriguing feature is the skin enhancement effect, which tries to guess guess your age and sex while you are framing the shot and it reports them right in the viewfinder. We guess it’s even supposed to adjust the enhancement accordingly, but for us, it ruined every single shot with the skin coming out way too unnatural.

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A 2MP picture taken with the front camera

Photo comparison tool

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is more than capable of carrying its own weight in our Photo Comparison tool. You can see it does pretty well against the other 13 MP snappers.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 in our photo compare tool

Video recording

Xiaomi Mi 3’s camcorder shares the same UI as the still camera. It supports slow-motion videos and time-lapse videos with customizable snapping interval.

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Camcorder UI

Image stabilization is available too and it manages to keep the video steadier, but as usual it will lower your field of view significantly.

You can also capture 10MP images during video recording. Here are two samples of such snapped pictures:

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Pictures taken while recording a video

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is capable or recording 1080p@30fps videos. The clips have a bitrate of around 15 Mbps, audio is captured at 96 Kbps with a sampling rate of 48 kHz with 2 channels (read stereo).

The detail levels in the videos are high, while colors are pretty good and the framerate very consistent at 29fps. Contrast and white balance are great too for some impressive footage overall.

Here is a 1080p video we’ve uploaded on YouTube.

And here’s an untouched 1080p @ 30fps video sample taken straight off the Xiaomi Mi 3.

Video quality comparison tool

The Xiaomi Mi 3 enters our video comparison too. There are plenty of 1080p camcorders you can compare it to, but it has proven to be among the best with great detail, colors, and contrast.

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Xiaomi Mi 3 in our video compare tool

MIUI Browser comes pre-installed, you should install Chrome too

The Xiaomi Mi 3 comes with the feature-rich MIUI Browser. It does a great job browsing, syncing with your Google account, supports downloads, there is a night mode too. It is as fast as Chrome, but does not support Find on Page or copy text (only links).

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Mi Browser

The MIUI Browser turned less capable of handling pressure – it couldn’t handle our battery-test browsing script for more than three minutes without crashing. That’s why we suggest you install Chrome – just in case you need to avoid crashes or you need to find something on a page. Plus it can sync with your Google account easily.

Other pre-installed apps

The Xiaomi Mi 3 offers a great file managing app called Explorer, but there is no document viewer/editor pre-installed. There are plenty for free in the Play Store though (even ones made by Google), so this shouldn’t be a problem.

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Explorer

The custom Calendar looks good, syncs with your accounts including Google, and offers Day and Month views.

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Calendar

There are also the standard sound recorder, notes, flashlight, calculator, clock, and weather apps, among others, that are a given in any self-respecting Android package nowadays.

By the way, you can activate the torch from the lockscreen by a tap-and-hold on the Home key.

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Voice recorder • Notes • Calculator • Weather

When it comes to getting around, the Xiaomi Mi 3 relies on Google Maps and Navigation. Naturally, if Google Maps isn’t installed on yours, you can get it for free. The app offers much of the same functionality as its web-based counterpart, although you will need a data connection to take full advantage of the navigation features. Street view mode with digital compass enabled is an especially neat thing that you should definitely check out if you haven’t already.

Whatever you may be missing, you’ll find it in Google’s Play Store or Xiaomi’s Mi Store for sure.

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Google Play Store • Mi Store

Final words

Xiaomi Mi 3 offers everything a flagship should have – premium and stylish design, a top-quality display, latest generation chipset, capable camera and snappy Android KitKat with great MIUI launcher. As it always happens there is more to the story.

Xiaomi’s best-selling smartphone is made to stand out. You’ll recognize it not only by its aesthetics, but also by its user-friendly MIUI.

The MIUI ROMs have gained tremendous popularity over the past years and have accumulated a massive user base and attracted a lively developing community (though the shared information is mostly in Chinese). Some of Xiaomi’s rival even launched their own Android skins, somewhat inspired by MIUI’s success. But MIUI has been designed to work on a Xiaomi phone in the first place and that’s why it feels right at home on the Mi 3. It’s a combination you’ll probably pick in a heartbeat. It is easy to see why people want it – it is affordable enough, yet manages to keep it all premium.

Xiaomi Mi 3

The success of the Xiaomi Mi 3 speaks for itself – the Mi 3 has sold millions of units in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore over the past few months. It is going pretty well in latest market – India. Of course, you can find the Xiaomi Mi 3 in Europe as well, but those are grey imports so we don’t have official sale numbers.

The Xiaomi Mi 3 is available in 16GB and 64GB flavors, both of them lacking a microSD card slot. This is probably the thing many people won’t forgive, but that’s life we guess. In case you need more space, you’ll have to pay about $50 more for the 64GB version and that should be enough for most.

Let’s make a quick summary of our review findings:

Xiaomi Mi 3 key test findings:

  • Build quality is great, the phone is impressively slim
  • The display quality and sunlight legibility are OK
  • The battery life is very good
  • We rated the speaker loudness as Below Average
  • The intuitive MIUI interface is based on Android KitKat and offers rich customization options
  • The benchmark performance is almost excellent
  • The audio output quality is mediocre
  • Camera takes great photos and videos
  • Video player supports every audio and video codec except WMV

Sure, there is some competition, as you can imagine, and we’ll check it out.

Xiaomi has already announced the Mi 3 successor – Mi 4. It will upgrade the chipset to Snapdragon 801 with 3GB RAM and LTE connectivity, but keep the same display, camera, memory options and software package as the Mi 3. It offers new design with a metal frame but glossy plastic rear cover. It also comes with a price premium.

Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Mi 4

Last year’s top tier smartphones shouldn’t be overlooked as they’ve become very attractive with the recent price cuts. The Snapdragon 800-powered Samsung Galaxy S4, LG G2 and Sony Xperia Z1 are selling as cupcakes nowadays. They all offer similar, if not better performance, better cameras and unique functions as water protection (Xperia Z2), optical image stabilization (LG G2), or the insanely feature-rich TouchWiz launcher (Galaxy S4). What they lack is Xiaomi’s easily customizable MIUI launcher and the low price tags Xiaomi is known for.

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Samsung I9506 Galaxy S4 • LG G2 • Sony Xperia Z1

Xiaomi’s competition in the face of Huawei Ascend P7 is quite weak, because of the lesser chipset and battery capacity offered by Huawei, but the Oppo Find 7a is ready to give a good fight with a fair chance of winning because of its better camera capabilities. Then again, none of those two can beat Xiaomi’s pricing.

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Huawei Ascend P7 • Oppo Find 7a

Xiaomi Mi 3 isn’t perfect, but this doesn’t get in the way of the pleasant impression we are left with after our close encounter with the Mi 3. It’s is a classy device with snappy performance and even a head turner, too. That’s certainly enough by our books.

Mi3 Specs:

GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
SIM Mini-SIM
Announced 2013, September
Status Available. Released 2013, December
BODY Dimensions 144 x 73.6 x 8.1 mm (5.67 x 2.90 x 0.32 in)
Weight 145 g (5.11 oz)
DISPLAY Type IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 1080 x 1920 pixels, 5.0 inches (~441 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 3
– MIUI 5.0
SOUND Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
MEMORY Card slot No
Internal 16/64 GB, 2 GB RAM
DATA GPRS Yes
EDGE Yes
Speed DC-HSDPA, 42 Mbps; HSDPA, 21 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth v4.0, A2DP
NFC Yes
USB microUSB v2.0, USB On-the-go
CAMERA Primary 13 MP, 4128 x 3096 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED flash,check quality
Features Geo-tagging, touch focus, face/smile detection, HDR
Video 1080p@30fps, HDR, check quality
Secondary 2 MP, 1080p@30fps
FEATURES OS Android OS, v4.3 (Jelly Bean), upgradable to v4.4.2 (KitKat)
Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
CPU Quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400
GPU Adreno 330
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Messaging SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM
Browser HTML5
Radio FM radio
GPS Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS
Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Colors White, Gray, Black, Yellow, Pink, Blue, Gold, Green (16 GB)
– Fast battery charging: 60% in 30 min (Quick Charge 2.0)
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– MP4/DivX/XviD/WMV/H.264/H.263 player
– MP3/WAV/eAAC+/FLAC player
– Organizer
– Photo/video editor
– Document viewer (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF)
– Google Search, Maps, Gmail,
YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk, Picasa
– Voice memo/dial/commands
– Predictive text input (Swype)
BATTERY Non-removable Li-Ion 3050 mAh battery
Stand-by Up to 500 h
Talk time Up to 25 h
Music play Up to 50 h
MISC Price group
Rs. 13999/-
TESTS Performance Basemark OS II: 1234
Display Contrast ratio: 907 (nominal), 2.001 (sunlight)
Camera Photo / Video
Loudspeaker Voice 69dB / Noise 66dB / Ring 75dB
Audio quality Noise -91.5dB / Crosstalk -44.2dB
Battery life

Endurance rating 66h

All thanks to GSM Arena

Motorola Moto G

Motorola Moto G

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The Moto G promises to deliver a premium smartphone experience for a third of the price of current high-end phones. In India, it’s currently selling like hot cakes. Considering the hype surrounding this handset, the Moto G deserves a special review treatment. Unlike others, we don’t just run benchmarks on a phone and then write an article around it. In smartphones, performance and app count only tell you the ‘smart’ part. In this review, we will also tell you how well does the Moto G perform as a ‘phone’.

 

 

Moto G revie

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Budget smartphones might not attract as much attention as their high-end counterparts, but there is no denying that these devices are in massive demand, especially in markets like India. Motorola’s Moto G is an attempt to grab buyers’ attention by offering a number of features at an extremely reasonable price.

After a brief sabbatical, Motorola has returned to the Indian market with its Moto G smartphone, which is an affordable device for cost-conscious consumers worldwide. This phone was designed as part of Google’s plan to focus on creating a distinctive lineup of devices for different markets. Now, with Lenovo recently acquiring Google’s stake in Motorola Mobility, we don’t know whether or not the company will stick with the same strategy.

Motorola underscored its plan to focus on emerging markets by unveiling the Moto G at a huge event in Sao Paulo, Brazil in November last year. The budget-friendly smartphone was supposed to have reached Indian shores by January 2014, and it’s here after only a short delay. As promised, it comes at a decent price.

We got our hands on the black version of the Moto G (single-SIM). Does this low price come at the cost of performance?

Look and feel
The first thing that struck us about the Motorola Moto G was its novel packaging. When it came to our doorstep, we didn’t realise that the sleek box hid a mobile phone inside. Amazingly everything from the device to the charger fits within this slim box.

The Moto G is a candybar phone. It doesn’t have any contours – the design is very basic yet modern. When we first looked at the Moto G, we mistook it for the company’s flagship Moto X.

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The G looks like a replica of the Moto X (except for its size), which is not really a bad thing considering the premium look of its elder sibling. However, the Moto G is different in a few ways. It’s definitely thicker, measuring 129.9×65.9×11.6mm compared to 129.3×65.3×10.4mm for the X. At 143 grams, the Moto G is also heavier than the Moto X (130 grams). However, we assume that for an average buyer in this price segment, thickness and weight of a smartphone are not the biggest concerns. The Moto G features curved edges that offer a good grip.

The Moto G’s front panel is dominated by a 4.5-inch screen, which is only marginally smaller than 4.7-inch display found on the Moto X. The front panel features a black strip of glass around the screen that visually differentiates the plastic front and rear panels. Notably, the Moto G does not have any logo or branding on the front.

There’s a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera which to the left of the chrome earpiece. There are no soft-touch capacitive buttons on the front panel, a design touch that is commonly seen on the Nexus range of devices. It’s worth pointing out that Google’s Nexus 7 (2013) tablet’s front panel also bears a lot of similarities to the Moto G. The new Nexus 7 features a glass strip around the screen, identical to the Moto G.

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It seems Google wanted to align the industrial design of its hardware products. The Nexus line and Motorola’s two recent phones do have a family resemblance that sets them apart from Samsung’s and HTC’s phones.

Motorola has also used a nano-coating on the Moto G that acts as light water repellent. This does not make the Moto water resistant, but it can protect the smartphone from light splashes of water, which is still an interesting touch for a smartphone at this price point.

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The curved rear panel is made of a soft-touch polycarbonate, and is comfortable to hold. Yes, it sometimes gets badly smudged by fingerprints, but this is nothing that cannot be cleaned. The panel is removable even though the battery isn’t. Motorola has announced that there will be accessories including rear shells and flip covers (both in seven colour options) and Grip Shells (in five colour options). This means that customers will have a choice of colours, something we generally see on Nokia’s Lumia range.

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The power and volume rocker buttons are placed on the right side of the Moto G, while the 3.5mm audio jack is on the top and the Micro-USB port is on the bottom panel. The placement of the physical buttons is fine and we had no problem reaching them even when we were not looking at the device. The Moto G’s back houses a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash with a speaker grille to its left. The Motorola logo is embossed just below the LED flash and is identical to the one found on the Moto X. Peel off the back panel and you can get to the SIM slot, which accepts a Micro-SIM. The unit we received was a single-SIM device, though Motorola has introduced a dual-SIM Moto G variant in India.

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The Motorola Moto G has an overall solid build, though it does feel bit plasticky. Yes, it follows a tried and tested design rather than a radically new one, but it certainly has its own identity and there’s no mistaking it for any other phone from any other company.

Screen
One of the biggest highlights of the Moto G is its 4.5-inch 720×1280-pixel IPS LCD, which works out to a density of 329 pixels per inch. Notably, the Moto G’s screen is a bit sharper than Apple’s iPhone 5s, which offers 326ppi.

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Motorola has also used Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the Moto G to protect it from scratches. It’s worth pointing out that Gorilla Glass is usually found on premium devices priced at Rs. 30,000 and above.

The IPS LCD screen doesn’t have the fullest colour reproduction like the HTC One and LG G2 or the deepest blacks like Samsung’s high-end Galaxy smartphones (Galaxy S4 or Galaxy Note 3) with AMOLED screens do, but it is bright and colours are consistently vibrant. Thankfully the viewing angles are never a problem. The screen is not very reflective and visibility in bright sunlight was also acceptable. Further, the Moto G’s 4.5-inch screen is fine for video playback and gaming.

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Text on the Moto G is always crisp and clear.

There is no denying that many brands have launched smartphones with full-HD screens of late, but after using the Moto G for some time we felt that 329ppi is more than enough for a screen of this size. Motorola has definitely upped the ante for phones in this price bracket.

Camera
The Moto G sports a 5-megapixel rear camera accompanied by an LED flash, and also has a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. At this price point, we didn’t expect a higher megapixel count. The camera delivers decent but uninspiring shots in good lighting conditions.

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We tested the Moto G’s rear camera both outdoors and indoors in a variety of lighting conditions and found that images taken outdoors during daylight came out well, though they were a little over-saturated and we could detect a little bit of noise at the edges. You can notice that detail is lacking if you zoom in to a photo taken with a Moto G. Other than that, we found the quality of images taken in sufficient light to be satisfactory. However, the same could not be said for indoor and low-light shots. Photos taken in artificial light (without using the LED flash) are not very impressive, as background noise does tend to creep in.

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The Moto G’s rear camera can be set to take 5-megapixel shots in the 4:3 aspect ratio, while 16:9 shots will come out at 3.8 megapixels.

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The Moto G’s camera app is not stock and adds a bit of flavour the otherwise vanilla OS. Motorola’s camera app has a circular control bar that pops out from the left of the screen when tapped. Additional features include 4X digital zoom, slow motion video, burst mode, auto HDR mode, Panorama and tap to focus. The Moto G’s burst mode allows users to take up to 99 shots at once; users just need to long-press the camera soft key on the screen to start shooting. Notably, there are no ISO and exposure control settings on the Moto G.

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The 1.3-megapixel front facing camera can be used for selfies and video chats. We found that videos and images captured indoors or even outdoors with this camera were a bit grainy.

We would have liked a physical button for the camera as one has to rely on the soft key on the screen to click images.

Software/ Interface
When the Moto G reached our office, the device was running Android 4.3 out of the box. However, we soon encountered an alert that said “Please update your Moto G to Android’s latest version (4.4.2).” Motorola had rolled out the Android 4.4.2 KitKat update for the Moto G ahead of schedule in December last year.

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The Moto G with Android 4.4.2 KitKat is most updated smartphone in its price segment and offers a stock Android experience.

The Nexus 5 was the platform lead for Android 4.4 (KitKat) and the Moto G bears a lot of similarities to it in terms of software. Android 4.4 has a number of visual changes compared to Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), including a new launcher that makes the interface even more minimalistic. The Moto G also has flatter design elements, more muted colours in the status icons, more transparency, and smoother transition animations.

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We noticed a smooth flyaway animation on the Moto G, similar to the one seen on the Nexus 5, while moving between the app launcher and homescreen. The Moto G’s app launcher features app icons and widgets; now due to the icons being larger, you’ll see a grid of 4×5 instead of a 5×5.

The Moto G offers five customizable homescreens, and lots of widgets and apps classified into preloaded and downloadable categories. Notably, you cannot go beyond five homescreens, unlike with the Nexus 5.

Shortcuts for the dialler, Chrome browser, main menu, Messages and camera app remain visible when you swipe between homescreens. Notifications in the tray can be expanded with a two-finger pull gesture, and there are buttons for clearing all notifications and showing the quick settings shortcuts. These include toggles for Brightness, Settings, Wi-Fi, Network, Battery, Airplane Mode, Bluetooth, and Location settings. Unlike the Nexus 5, the Moto G does not have a quick Alarm clock shortcut.

Long-pressing on the Moto G’s homescreen brings up options to change the wallpaper. A choice of still, live and custom wallpapers are now available under a single menu.

Another feature that gives the Moto G a clear advantage in the affordable smartphone segment is the voice guided search feature. This was also first seen on the Nexus 5. A user can initiate a voice search on the Moto G when it’s unlocked by simply saying, ‘OK Google.’ However, it is only available when the language is set to US English.

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The Moto G also includes a revamped Phone app that now automatically prioritises contacts based on who you talk to most often. The app includes a search bar, space for the most frequently called contacts and favourites, and shortcuts to the contact list, dialling pad, call history and settings.

The Moto G also features a new Photos app that allows viewing and editing of locally stored and Google+ images. The new Photos app features deeper integration with Google+ and can be used to tag photos.

The Email app on the Moto G has also been revamped, and it now displays pictures of contacts for emails. Navigation has been made identical to the Gmail app and you can swipe messages to delete them.

The Moto G also includes Google Drive, Keep, Play Games, Play Movies, Play Movies, Play Books, Play Newsstand and Quickoffice for creating and editing documents, spreadsheets and presentations. You can print documents through the Google Cloud Print plugin, or apps made by printer manufacturers.

Motorola preloads two other major apps on the Moto G. Motorola Migrate can help move the contents of an old Android phone to your new Moto G. Motorola Assist allows users to silence the device while you’re sleeping or driving. We tried it out, and noted that the app automatically sent a text message to callers in the time we told it we were busy.

Performance/ Battery Life
The Moto G is powered by 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with Adreno 305 graphics and 1GB of RAM onboard. The Moto G comes in two storage capacities: 8GB and 16GB, and does not support expandable storage. We received an 8GB unit, of which only 5.5GB was user-accessible.

moto_g_rear_panel_ndtv.jpg

Even though the Moto G falls in the budget smartphone segment, the limited storage on the device is definitely a limiting factor. Google is offering 50GB of free Google Drive storage for two years for every Moto G buyer, which is additional to the standard 15GB available to every Google account user. However, cloud storage is no substitute for physical storage, especially since budget users won’t have very expensive data plans.

The Moto G definitely ups the ante in terms of innards. Brands such as Micromax and Xolo, which have come to dominate the sub-Rs. 15,000 segment, usually use MediaTek chipsets.

The overall experience of navigating through the Moto G’s interface was extremely impressive, thanks to all the power under its hood, and the fact that the UI is devoid of unnecessary bells and whistles such as transition effects. We did not experience any lag at all while launching apps, playing light games, scrolling through web pages and switching between apps on the Moto G.

With its quad-core processor running under the hood, the Moto G manages to chug along just fine. We multi-tasked all day, which included chatting via WhatsApp and Hangouts, browsing the Web and playing games like Temple Run 2 and Plants vs. Zombies 2 without any trouble. In day to day activities the Moto G worked smoothly and we were never left wanting for more power – that is until we tried a few heavy games like Shadow Gun and Dead Trigger.

The clarity of the Moto G’s loudspeaker is good, but isn’t too loud and breaks at its highest volume. Motorola does not supply any headphones in the Moto G box, which is a surprising omission.

The Moto G’s 4.5-inch IPS LCD HD screen is good for movies and videos. We were impressed with the colour reproduction and viewing angles on the Moto G.

Call quality on the Moto G was impressive and the device was able to latch on to cellular networks even in weak signal areas, which came in handy at times. Our tests were performed on a single-SIM model, although Motorola will be selling the dual-SIM version here.

The Moto G scored well in our benchmark tests. We recorded a score of 11,874 in AnTuTu, which was right behind the Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy S III. Quadrant gave us a score of 8,569 which is ahead of HTC’s flagship smartphone from two years ago, the One X. On the graphics front, the Moto G remarkably reached 11 frames per second in the GFXbench test, and 5629 in the 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme run-through.

moto_g_side_panel_ndtv.jpg

The Moto G packs a 2070mAh battery which is non-removable and can deliver a mixed usage time of up to 24 hours, according to Motorola. We were able to get about a day (22 hours) of normal usage on the Moto G, which consisted of Web browsing and watching videos on YouTube, a few calls lasting for about an hour, with Wi-Fi switched on, the display set to auto brightness, and the usual notifications for the messages, emails, Facebook, Hike and WhatsApp enabled.

With heavy usage, which included calls lasting for about two hours, 3G turned on all the time, casual photography and watching a movie for around two hours, an hour of casual gaming (Temple Run 2 and Dead Trigger), and notifications enabled, the device lasted for about 12-13 hours, which was not bad.

In our video loop rundown test, the Moto G was able to able to deliver 8 hours and 30 minutes of battery life.

Verdict
What makes the Moto G special is the fact that it is one of a very small number of devices running the latest version of Android, and one of the only ones priced this low to be doing so.

The Moto G scores heavily in terms of style and substance, and our only major quibbles are the non-expandable storage and below-par camera performance. The 4.5-inch HD screen is wide, and yet the phone is small enough to hold in one hand and type easily with a thumb. Most of all, praise be, the Moto G is also extremely affordable.

This phone is definitely aimed at price-conscious Indian smartphone buyers, and its array of colourful back shells will attract the style-conscious as well. Yes, it isn’t perfect, but it isn’t meant to compete against the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One or LG G2. At its price, we’re willing to overlook its faults.

The Moto G is available in two variants: 8GB for Rs. 12,499 and 16GB for Rs. 13,999. At this price point, no other phones offer an experience that is as good, so in that sense the Moto G is a game changer. If you have your eyes set on the Moto G, we recommend you spend the extra bucks and get the 16GB version, given the limited user accessible storage available in the 8GB version. Our only other complaint with the Moto G is the average camera, but the only phone that offers a better camera in the same price bracket is the Nokia Lumia 720, so the newest Motorola smartphone is a winner overall.

Pros: 
Crisp IPS screen; Excellent gaming performance; Latest Android Kitkat; Great music output; Good battery life.
Cons: 
Questionable call quality; Disappointing camera; Shoddy bundled accessories.

Moto G
Street Price: Rs 12,500 (8 GB), Rs 14,000 (16 GB version)

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Full Specifications:

GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
CDMA 800 / 1900 – CDMA version
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
HSDPA 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 – for T-Mobile, AT&T
CDMA2000 1xEV-DO – CDMA version
SIM Micro-SIM
Announced 2013, November
Status Available. Released 2013, November
BODY Dimensions 129.9 x 65.9 x 11.6 mm (5.11 x 2.59 x 0.46 in)
Weight 143 g (5.04 oz)
DISPLAY Type IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 720 x 1280 pixels, 4.5 inches (~326 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 3
SOUND Alert types Vibration, MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
MEMORY Card slot No
Internal 8/16 GB, 1 GB RAM
DATA GPRS Yes
EDGE Yes
Speed HSDPA, 21 Mbps; HSUPA
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth Yes, v4.0 with A2DP, LE
USB Yes, microUSB v2.0, USB Host
CAMERA Primary 5 MP, 2592 х 1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, check quality
Features Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, panorama
Video Yes, 720p@30fps, stereo sound rec., HDR, check quality
Secondary Yes, 1.3 MP
FEATURES OS Android OS, v4.3 (Jelly Bean), upgradable to v4.4.2 (KitKat)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8226 Snapdragon 400
CPU Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7
GPU Adreno 305
Sensors Accelerometer, proximity, compass
Messaging SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
Browser HTML5
Radio FM radio
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS
Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Colors Black (front panel), 7 color options (back panel)
– SNS integration
– Google Drive (50 GB storage)
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– MP3/AAC+/WAV/Flac player
– MP4/H.263/H.264 player
– Organizer
– Photo viewer/editor
– Document viewer
– Google Search, Maps, Gmail
– YouTube, Google Talk, Picasa
– Voice memo/dial
– Predictive text input
BATTERY Non-removable Li-Ion 2070 mAh battery
Stand-by
Talk time Up to 24 h
MISC SAR US 1.17 W/kg (head)     1.06 W/kg (body)
SAR EU 0.79 W/kg (head)
Price group Rs 12,500 (8 GB), Rs 14,000 (16 GB version)
TESTS Display Contrast ratio: 967:1 (nominal), 2.477 (sunlight)
Loudspeaker Voice 81dB / Noise 75dB / Ring 82dB
Audio quality Noise -92.1dB / Crosstalk -91.4dB
Camera Photo / Video
Battery life Endurance rating 54h

Nokia Lumia 720: Review & Details

 

 

Ever since the Finnish company decided to join forces with Microsoft, Nokia has been steadily releasing a slew of Windows Phones into the market covering various price points. We have seen devices like the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820 in the past, which took care of the high-end of the market and phones such as the Lumia 520 and the Lumia 620, which are covering the low-end. 

Today we have the Lumia 720 with us, which sits bang in the middle of Nokia’s Lumia range and is a mid-range device with enough features to attract those who don’t want to spend too much but want something more than a budget device. Let’s see how well it performs.

Design

Nokia has history of making great looking and the Lumia 720 is no different. The phone takes on the appearance of the more expensive Lumia 920 and looks really good, particularly the red version pictured here. Unlike some of the other Lumia models, the 720 has a unibody construction and the polycarbonate on the back fuses effortlessly with the glass on the front.

 

image1
 
 

The front has the Gorilla Glass 2 stretching from top to bottom and housing the display roughly in the middle. As with the previous Lumia phones, there is a sizable bezel around the screen, particularly below with the three keys, and it does tend to make the display look smaller than it is. Above the display are the earpiece and the front facing camera.

 

image2

 

On the right, the phone has the volume control keys, power keys and two-step camera shutter key. Having the power key on the side instead of the top is convenient but having it on same side as the volume keys means you often end up pressing one when you want the other. Having it on the other side would have reduced the confusion.

On top is the 3.5mm headphone jack. Since the phone has a unibody design, the card slots are on the outside, with the micro SIM slot on top and microSD slot on the left, both operated using the provided tool. On the bottom is the micro USB port.

 

image3

 

On the back is the 5 megapixel camera with an LED flash. A secondary microphone can be seen just above the flash. Near the bottom are the connectors for the snap-on wireless charging cover and loudspeaker. The snap-on cover is a separately sold accessory and not part of the standard equipment. It adds extra size and bulk to the phone, not to mention makes it look worse, for the convenience of wireless charging.

The hardware has a nice feel and fits well in your hand. The matte red unit we received looked nice but was a tad slippery, which was exacerbated by the curvy body. The phone, however, feels rock solid despite the plastic construction and should be able to take a few drops without any issues.

Overall the design and build of the Lumia 720 are very impressive and although it is only a mid-range device it has a premium feel to it that surpasses that of many expensive phones.

Display

The Lumia 720 has a 4.3-inch, 800 x 480 resolution ClearBlack LCD. The ClearBlack technology improves outdoor visibility by employing a polarizing filter that makes the display easier to see even under direct sunlight.

The 720 also uses a couple of software tweaks to improve the visibility under bright light by changing the color and brightness of the panel. The image no longer looks natural but if you’re just trying to look at text or a map under sunlight then it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Lastly, the Lumia 720 also employs the super-sensitive touch that we first saw on the Lumia 920. Once enabled, this lets you use the touchscreen even through gloves or pretty much anything, for that matter.

Speaking of image quality, the display on the Lumia 720 is actually quite good. The colors, brightness, contrast, viewing angles and sunlight legibility are all impressive. Only issue is the WVGA resolution, which makes some of the fonts look rough, especially while scrolling. Still, for most parts the display on the Lumia 720 is quite satisfactory.

Hardware, Software and Performance

The Lumia 720 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8227 SoC with a 1GHz dual-core Krait CPU and Adreno 305 GPU. In terms if memory, it has 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage space, out of which only about 3GB is available to the user. You’ll be glad to know then that the phone also has a microSD card slot. In terms of connectivity, the phone has 3G/HSPA, Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi 802.11ab/g/n, NFC, A-GPS and GLONASS.

The software is the same old Windows Phone 8. Released over a year ago now, the OS is already starting to feel long in the tooth and Microsoft’s glacial pace at updating it isn’t helping matters. In its current version, Windows Phone would have been great four years ago but feels severely out of touch with what’s going on in the rest of the smartphone world. Whatever is the next version it couldn’t come soon enough.

Beyond the core operating system, Nokia has usual has installed its own range of apps and service. There is the excellent Nokia Here maps application, along with turn-by-turn voice navigation with Nokia Drive. Then there is the Nokia Music service for free streaming of Indian and international music, Cinemagraph for taking pictures with moving elements, Panorama for, well, panorama shots, Smart Shoot that takes multiple shots and lets you choose the best one, and a couple of others. Nokia has also installed a few third party apps, such as BIGFLIX, BookMyShow, Cosmopolitan, Hike, TripAdvisor and Zomato. As usual, you can choose to uninstall all of these, if you wish.

Nokia’s applications are what set their Windows Phone devices apart from everyone else’s (that and the fact that every else seems to have pretty much given up at this point). Nokia does a good job of making up for Microsoft’s inadequacies to quite an extent.

Unfortunately, Nokia can’t make up for everything and as before, Windows Phone still lags behind when it comes to third party apps. It’s disappointing that even after three years this is still an issue but that’s just how it is. If you’re not a big app or games person and only need the basic apps to get through your day, you should be fine. More demanding users would still be advised to look at iOS or Android.

In terms of performance, the Lumia 720 is in line with other Windows Phone devices. The UI is as smooth as ever, although occasionally it would hiccup in odd places. The menu in the camera app, for example, always lagged every time it was brought up.

As with other Lumia phones, the 720 comes with additional options in the Settings menu, such as for the display and network settings. These are not part of the core OS and added separately by Nokia through. Due to this, there is a distinct lag when you open them, complete with a loading screen. On surface, they look like any other settings item so the lag is likely to confuse an average user who doesn’t know what Nokia has been up to. It would be better if Nokia works on making the integration more seamless by getting rid of the loading screens.

The Lumia 720 comes with 512MB of RAM, which other than making a handful of apps incompatible with the device also makes it easy to run out of memory during multitasking. It’s not difficult to choke the phone by running a few apps in the background while web browsing. This usually results in the phone either closing the apps or closing browser tabs.

Performance in gaming is a mixed bag. In certain games such as Temple Run there was noticeable lag whereas Asphalt 7: Heat worked fine. It really depends upon the developers and how they optimize their apps. Unfortunately, most of them don’t really bother, which negatively affects the overall gaming performance.

Multimedia

The Lumia 720 has a 6.7 megapixel camera, which is a rather odd resolution to have. The main attraction is the camera aperture, which at f/1.9 is the widest on a mobile phone camera till date. What this should result in is some good low-light photography and shallow depth of field.

 

image4

 

 

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image6

 

In terms of image quality, the Lumia 720 acquits itself quite well. Nokia is one of the best around when it comes to camera quality but it’s good to see the expertise trickle down to mid-range offerings as well. The images from the 720 are fairly detailed and noise-free with natural colors and sharpness. The large aperture doesn’t really result in a particularly shallow depth of field compared to phones with smaller apertures but then that is expected from such a small lens.

In lowlight, the camera once again delivers impressive results, with genuinely usable images, helped no doubt by the wide aperture allowing more light in than on most camera phones. Of course, the aperture alone can’t do much, so it’s good that Nokia has paired the optics with a good sensor as well. Low light images look pretty decent and have a surprisingly low-amount of noise.

Videos were once again quite good. The phone records 720p videos, which, other than the usual wobble associated with a lack of stabilization of any kind, were sharp and smooth.

The audio video performance is on par with other Windows Phone devices. The music player still won’t let you play FLAC files and the video player cannot play anything other than MP3, that too without subtitle support. This barebones experience may have made sense back in 2007 when the iPhone was announced but not anymore. The fact that you don’t even have decent apps to make up for this functionality makes things worse.

The audio quality of the 720 is pretty good, both through the headphones as well as the loudspeaker. The single loudspeaker, despite its position is pretty loud even if you keep it on a surface. The headphone output can be altered as Nokia bundles an equalizer app within the main settings although it’s best to leave them disabled. Nokia also bundles a pair of earphones with the phone but they have to be perhaps the worse I’ve ever heard and don’t ever deserve to be taken out of the box.

Battery Life

The Lumia 720 has a non-removable 2,000mAh battery. The battery size is the same as the one in the Lumia 920 and even bigger than what HTC provides with the 8X. Considering the slower processor, this has a profound effect on battery life. With regular usage, the Lumia 720 could get about two days of battery life, which has become incredibly rare these days. Even with heavy usage you’d still get over a day of usage, which is still pretty awesome.

Verdict

There is a lot to like in the Lumia 720. The design is absolutely gorgeous and good enough to make you want to buy the phone on that merit alone. The display is also pretty good, despite the lower resolution. The camera is impressive, both indoors and outdoors and the battery life is outstanding.

It’s not without its flaws, however. The first is Windows Phone 8, which is no longer a competitive operating system. It lags behind iOS and Android in both features as well as third party applications. Unless Microsoft gets its game together and releases some significant updates it is bound to fade into obscurity.

Secondly, at Rs. 17,999, the Lumia 720 is quite expensive. You are paying nearly twice over the Lumia 520 and not getting a lot in return. Priced below Rs. 15,000, the Lumia 720 would have been easier to recommend but not so much at the current price.

All things considered, if you’re someone who doesn’t use a lot of apps and manage to find a good deal, the Lumia 720 is a fine device and one of the best mid-range smartphones on the market today. Others are advised to look elsewhere. 

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support
  • Quad-band 3G with 21 Mbps HSDPA and 5.7 Mbps HSUPA support
  • 4.3″ 16M-color ClearBlack IPS LCD display of WVGA resolution
  • 6.1 megapixel autofocus camera with super-fast F/1.9 lens and LED flash, 720p@30fps video recording
  • 1.3MP front-facing camera
  • Windows Phone 8 OS
  • 1 GHz dual-core Krait CPU, Adreno 305 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8227 chipset, 512MB of RAM
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band
  • GPS receiver with A-GPS and GLONASS support
  • Free lifetime voice-guided navigation
  • 8GB of inbuilt storage, expandable via the microSD card slot
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • Built-in accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • microUSB port
  • Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP and EDR, file transfers
  • SNS integration
  • Xbox Live integration and Xbox management
  • NFC support
  • Digital compass
  • Nokia Music

Main disadvantages

  • A few prominent apps still missing, some apps incompatible due to 512MB RAM
  • No FM radio
  • No system-wide file manager
  • No lockscreen shortcuts
  • Voice navigation is limited to only a single country

 

image7

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Also known as Nokia 720 RM-885.
GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
SIM Micro-SIM
Announced 2013, February
Status Available. Released 2013, April
BODY Dimensions 127.9 x 67.5 x 9 mm, 78 cc (5.04 x 2.66 x 0.35 in)
Weight 128 g (4.52 oz)
DISPLAY Type IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 480 x 800 pixels, 4.3 inches (~217 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 2
  – ClearBlack display
SOUND Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
  – Dolby headphone sound enhancement
MEMORY Card slot microSD, up to 64 GB
Internal 8 GB, 512 MB RAM
DATA GPRS Class B
EDGE Up to 236.8 kbps
Speed HSDPA, 21.1 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band
Bluetooth Yes, v3.0 with A2DP
NFC Yes
USB Yes, microUSB v2.0
   
   
CAMERA Primary 6.1 MP, 2848 x 2144 pixels, Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, LED flash, check quality
Features 1/3.6” sensor size, geo-tagging
Video Yes, 720p@30fps, check quality
Secondary Yes, 1.3 MP, 720p@30fps
FEATURES OS Microsoft Windows Phone 8, upgradeable to WP8 Amber
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8227
CPU Dual-core 1 GHz
GPU Adreno 305
Sensors Accelerometer, proximity, compass
Messaging SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
Browser HTML5
Radio FM radio
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS
Java No
Colors White, Red, Yellow, Cyan/Black
  – SNS integration
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– MP3/WAV/eAAC+/WMA player
– MP4/H.264/H.263/WMV player
– 7GB free SkyDrive storage
– Document viewer
– Video/photo editor
– Voice memo/dial/commands
– Predictive text input
   
   
BATTERY   Non-removable Li-Ion 2000 mAh battery (BP-4GW)
Stand-by (2G) / Up to 520 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 23 h 20 min (2G) / Up to 13 h 20 min (3G)
Music play Up to 79 h
MISC SAR US 1.24 W/kg (head)    
SAR EU 0.76 W/kg (head)    
Price group Rs./- 16,000 to 18,000
TESTS Display Contrast ratio: 1172:1 (nominal) / 2.512:1 (sunlight)
Loudspeaker Voice 72dB / Noise 66dB / Ring 75dB
Audio quality Noise -83.1dB / Crosstalk -80.9dB
Camera Photo / Video
Battery life Endurance rating 60h

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Micromax Superfone “Canvas 2” A110 Review

Micromax Superfone “Canvas 2” A110 Review

 

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With the huge success of the Superfone Canvas A100, Micromax has decided to do raise the bar once again for what a sub-10K Android smartphone should look like. With the same massive 5-inch screen making a comeback, they’ve managed to fit in a dual-core CPU this time – all for the same price as the previous one. Too good to be true?

Video Review

Video Review

Design and Build 
The Canvas 2 A110 once again borrows many design cues from the Galaxy Nexus. The chrome trim along the side is shaped in such a way so as to create an illusion of a curved glass. You get a nice chunky volume rocker on one side along with a power/sleep button on the other side. The phone appears larger than it actually is due to thick bezels on either side. There is a row of sensors beside the chrome plated earpiece and the back cover is quite sturdy and doesn’t scratch easily. The matt finish helps keep fingerprints away. The 8MP shooter produces quite a bulge at the back so you need to be careful as the lens cover will scratch easily.

 

A decent camera

A decent camera

 
The 5-inch LCD display has quite a low resolution of 854 x 480 which makes images, icons, etc. lose their sharpness. The screen doesn’t appear to be of a very good quality either as the viewing angles are pretty poor and there’s terrible banding throughout.  We now know where Micromax has cut corners in order to offer this phone at the same price point.

could have had a larger battery

Could have had a larger battery

 
Overall, the Canvas 2 is built well but is too bulky and quite heavy as well. We could have done without the chrome trim along the edges which quite frankly, gives the phone a cheap look. But then again, it is a cheap phone so there’s that. Unfortunately, the placement of the microSD card does not allow for hot-swap as the battery gets in the way.

Features 
Interface
The Canvas 2 A110 sticks to the stock interface of Android Ice Cream Sandwich for the most part, except for some changes to the notification bar, where we now have side-scrollable toggle switches. The UI is far from smooth though, which is a bit strange when you consider the fact that it’s powered by a dual-core CPU. It all makes sense when you take a closer look at the type of SoC used. Instead of a Qualcomm or TI OMAP, Micromax has used the MT6577 SoC from MediaTek. This comprises of a dual-core 1GHz Cortex-A9 CPU and PowerVR GPU. This SoC is specifically designed for the sub-$200 smartphone segment and has the potential to support up to 720p displays and record videos at 1080p. Unfortunately, Micromax has not exploited its full potential, which is why we have to live with lag in the UI. Another important feature that’s missing is an ambient light sensor.

UI is not the smoothest

UI is not the smoothest

 
Other than the stock UI and apps, Micromax has added a SIM management option to set the default card for call, messages, Internet, etc. Both SIMs can be active at the same time if needed. Another feature added is a scheduled power off option, which lets you switch the phone on or off at a designated time and day of the week.

Media 
Audio is handled by the stock music player of ICS. The quality of audio is strictly average even with a good pair of earphones. The rear speaker is quite loud so you won’t miss any of the alerts even in a noisy place. You get 4GB of internal memory and a slot for expanding it up to 32GB. Video playback leaves a lot to be desired. First of all, the Canvas 2 can only handle up to 720p video playback smoothly. MP4 files play well in the stock player but AVI, MKV, etc. have trouble playing back even in MX Player. The colour reproduction is good but the viewing angles are weak so you have to hold the phone just right for a decent experience.

 

Decent audio playback

Decent audio playback

 
Connectivity and Misc. apps
The Micromax Canvas 2 only supports two bands for 2G and just one for 3G, which means you won’t be able to use this on all networks around the world. Other connectivity features include Wi-Fi ‘n’, Bluetooth v3.0 and USB plug-and-play support. Other than the Play Store, Micromax also bundles their M! Store and M!Zone for added content. The bundled apps include some games like Cricket Fever, Fruit Devil along with some productivity apps like File Manager, M! Buddy and HookUp.

Good number of bundled apps

Good number of bundled apps

 
Camera 
The upgraded 8MP shooter manages to capture decent outdoor images with pretty accurate colours and good amounts of detail. Touch-to-focus and face detection is also present along with many scene modes. Indoor picture quality is not the best and the dual-LED flash isn’t very powerful in illuminating a dark area. Macro shots fare pretty well with a decent amount of detail and depth of field.

Macro mode is pretty good

Macro mode is pretty good

 
Video recording maxes out at 720p but the quality is not very good since the recorded file is not an MP4 video but 3gp. It’s a little strange that Micromax would limit the video recording capabilities to just 720p when clearly, the 8MP sensor and dual-core CPU could easily handle more.

Battery Life 
The Canvas 2 come fitted with a 2000mAh battery pack, which is clearly not enough to power such a huge screen for the entire day. We got  just about 7-hours in our video drain test. We expected a bigger battery given the size of the phone. The phone lasted about 6-hours and 15-minutes in our loop tests which included an hour of calls, two hours of music, two hours of music and the rest was taken up by audio streaming over Wi-Fi.

Verdict and Price in India  
Micromax has priced the Superfone Canvas 2 at Rs 9,990, which is the same price as the first Canvas. However, in order to achieve this, they’ve seem to have compromised a bit too much on performance. The type of panel used is quite poor, the dual-core CPU doesn’t seem to be put to good use as the UI is very laggy and the phone cannot handle video beyond 720p. Crucial features like an ambient light sensor and quad-band functionality also seem to be missing. Overall, the A110 turned out to be a bit of a disappointment and we’d advice you give this a pass.

 

 

Specifications:

 

Also known as Micromax A110 Canvas 2.

GENERAL 2G Network GSM 900 / 1800 – SIM 1 & SIM 2
3G Network HSDPA 2100
SIM Dual SIM (Mini-SIM)
Announced 2012, October
Status Available. Released 2012, November
BODY Dimensions 147 x 76.5 x 9.7 mm (5.79 x 3.01 x 0.38 in)
Weight
DISPLAY Type IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 480 x 854 pixels, 5.0 inches (~196 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes
Protection Yes
SOUND Alert types Vibration, MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
MEMORY Card slot microSD, up to 32 GB
Internal 4 GB (2 GB user available) storage, 512 MB
DATA GPRS Yes
EDGE Yes
Speed HSDPA, HSUPA
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth Yes, v3.0 with A2DP
USB Yes, microUSB v2.0
CAMERA Primary 8 MP, 3264 x 2448 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED flash
Features Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection
Video Yes
Secondary Yes, VGA
FEATURES OS Android OS, v4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Chipset MediaTek MT6577
CPU Dual-core 1 GHz
GPU PowerVR SGX531
Sensors Accelerometer, proximity
Messaging SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
Browser HTML5
Radio FM radio
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support
Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Colors Black, White
– SNS integration
– MP3/AAC/WMA/WAV player
– MP4/WMV/H.264/H.263 player
– Organizer
– Document viewer
– Google Search, Maps, Gmail, Youtube, Calendar, Google Talk
– Voice memo/dial
– Predictive text input
BATTERY Li-Ion 2000 mAh battery
Stand-by Up to 180 h
Talk time Up to 5 h
MISC SAR EU 0.68 W/kg (head)
Price group   about Rs. 10,000/-

Sony’s latest Xperia SL powered by a dual-core 1.7 for MRP. Rs. 32,549/-

Sony Xperia SL

 

The Xperia SL is considered to be one of Sony’s high-end smartphone as it features a 4.3-inch display with a resolution of 1280 X 720 pixels.

The device runs on Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich OS (upgradable to Jelly Bean) and is powered by a dual-core 1.7 GHz processor. It has 1GB of RAM. Other features include 32GB built-in storage, no microSD card slot, a 12MP camera with an LED flash with the ability to shoot video in 1080p whereas the front has a 1.3MP video calling camera @720p. It also supports NFC and Bluetooth.

The Xperia SL supports HDMI-out, DLNA, 3D and motion gaming, 3D surround sound, TV launcher and the Walkman application. Read more about the Xperia SL.

The Xperia SL is priced at Rs. 32,549 (MRP)

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Specifications:

General 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
SIM Micro-SIM
Announced 2012, August
Status Available. Released 2012, September
Body Dimensions 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm (5.04 x 2.52 x 0.42 in)
Weight 144 g (5.08 oz)
– Touch-sensitive controls
Display Type LED-backlit LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 720 x 1280 pixels, 4.3 inches (~342 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes, up to 10 fingers
Protection Scratch-resistant glass
– Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine
– Timescape UI
Sound Alert types Vibration; MP3 ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
Memory Card slot No
Internal 32 GB storage, 1 GB RAM
Data GPRS Up to 86 kbps
EDGE Up to 237 kbps
Speed HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth Yes, v3.0 with A2DP, EDR
NFC Yes
USB Yes, microUSB v2.0, USB On-the-go support
Camera Primary 12 MP, 4000×3000 pixels, autofocus, LED flash.
Features Geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, 3D sweep panorama, image stabilization
Video Yes, 1080p@30fps, continuous autofocus, video light, video stabilizer.
Secondary Yes, 1.3 MP, 720p@30fps
Features OS Android OS, v4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon
CPU Dual-core 1.7 GHz
GPU Adreno 220
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Messaging SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, IM, Push Email
Browser HTML5, Adobe Flash
Radio Stereo FM radio with RDS
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS
Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Colors Black, White, Silver, Pink
– 50 GB of Cloud storage (time limited offer)
– TV launcher
– SNS integration
– HDMI port
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– MP4/H.263/H.264/WMV player
– MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV player
– TrackID music recognition
– Google Search, Maps, Gmail,
YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk
– Document viewer
– Voice memo/dial/commands
– Predictive text input
Battery Standard battery, Li-Ion 1750 mAh
Stand-by Up to 420 h
Talk time Up to 8 h 30 min
Music play Up to 25 h
Misc Price group Rs. 32,549/-

 

A refresh, instead of a proper upgrade. A replacement model rather than a successor. Is the Sony Xperia SL aiming too low? Many will probably say so, but you can’t blame Sony for trying to extend the life of a pretty solid smartphone and one of its best-received handsets.

The Sony Xperia SL might not tempt anyone already owning the Xperia S to upgrade, but then again that’s where the Xperia T steps in. The new Sony smartphone takes the path of the Arc S and tries to give a once successful flagship better chances to survive in the mid-range.


Sony Xperia SL official photos

The Xperia SL finds itself in the middle of an extremely fierce battle. It’s squeezed between the affordable dual-core NovaThor-powered droids and the flagships from the beginning of the year, which have undergone several price-cuts and are ready to conquer new territories.

The question is whether the Sony Xperia SL has what it takes to survive in these conditions. A look at its main strengths and weaknesses should help us with the answer.

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM /GPRS/EDGE support
  • 3G with 14.4 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA
  • 4.3″ 16M-color capacitive LED-backlit LCD touchscreen of 720p resolution (720 x 1280 pixels) with Sony Mobile BRAVIA engine; Scratch-resistant glass
  • Android OS v4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Dual-core 1.7 GHz Scorpion CPU, 1 GB RAM, Adreno 220 GPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8260 chipset
  • 12 MP autofocus camera with LED flash and geo-tagging, Multi Angle shot
  • 1080p video recording @ 30fps with continuous autofocus and stereo sound
  • 1.3 MP front-facing camera, 720p video recording
  • Wi-Fi b/g/n and DLNA
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
  • 32GB built-in storage
  • microHDMI port, dedicated TV launcher
  • microUSB port (charging) and stereo Bluetooth v2.1
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • Voice dialing
  • Deep Facebook integration
  • PlayStation Certified, access to the PS Store
  • Accelerometer and proximity sensor

Main disadvantages

  • More powerful chipsets can be had for the same price
  • Display has sub-par viewing angles
  • No microSD card slot

It’s quite obvious, that even after the speed bump, the Sony Xperia SL isn’t the most powerful droid around. There are several offerings within its own price-range to offer Krait cores and newer generation graphics processors, which might or might not matter too much, depending on wether the Sony smartphone can offer a smooth ride through the UI.

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The Sony Xperia SL studio shots

Plus, there’s the 720p BRAVIA-powered screen of Retina-beating pixel density and the very capable 12 megapixel camera, which give the Xperia SL a couple of potent weapons of its own. The design has not changed one bit, but few will deny that the Xperia S was already one of the sleekest looking smartphones around.

It appears that the Xperia SL won’t allow our jury to make an easy call, so let’s kick off this review in the hope that by the time we are finished, the picture would be more clear.

A standard retail box

The retail box of the Sony Xperia SL features the familiar GreenHeart charger, which pairs with the microUSB cable to charge the phone. An in-ear headset is also available, which rounds up all the essentials, as the Xperia SL has no card slot.

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The Xperia SL box and its contents

The only difference over the Xperia S box is the lack of Smart Tags. The Sony Xperia SL still features NFC connectivity, and you can always download the SmartTag app off the Google Play store, but if you are after the Smart Tags functionality, you’ll have to purchase them separately.

The Sony Mobile official store offers a bundle of four tags in different colors for $20, in case you were wondering. You may even be able to get cheaper offers on Ebay, the tags are universal and don’t have to be branded by Sony to work with the Xperia SL.

Sony Xperia SL dimensions

The Sony Xperia SL has the exact same measures as the Sony Xperia S – 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm. Considering that the Motorola RAZR M stands at the impressive 122.5 x 60.9 x 8.3, while touting an identically sized screen and a larger, 2000 mAh battery, the Xperia SL may certainly be considered a bulky smartphone.

The Xperia SL is also quite heavy, tipping the scales at 144g. It’s no Nokia Lumia 920, but it certainly won’t let you forget that it’s in your pocket. On the other hand, the relatively heavy weight contributes to a very solid feel, when you hold the Xperia SL in your hand.

Design and build quality

The Sony Xperia SL design is perfectly identical to that of the Sony Xperia S.It’s not a new design, but we still like the combination of square angles and curves.

The design has carried over the unique accent too, in the illuminated transparent strip. In this day it’s not that easy to find a smartphone which has as much character as the Xperia SL. It might have led to an increase in the overall volume, but it’s probably worth it. After all, the Sony smartphone doesn’t have a screen nearing 5″ in size to worry about so it can afford to spare a few millimeters for a good cause like that.

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The Sony Xperia SL next to the Sony Xperia miro

Above the screen sits the earpiece, alongside the 1.3MP front-facing camera, which can record 720p video. The proximity and ambient light sensors are here too, and there’s a charge/event indicator, which glows in red or green depending on the charge status and blinks whenever there’s something that requires your attention.

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There’s a front-facing camera and a bunch of sensors next to the earpiece

Below the screen, there are three tiny dots marking the three capacitive keys (Back, Home and Menu). The actual icons are within the transparent strip, so you might be fooled to try and push those instead (like we did) and it takes a while to get used to the correct position of the keys. What’s more, they’ve been tweaked to require a proper press rather than a light touch so it feels awkward in the beginning.

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The three keys below the screen

The transparent strip has a cool white backlight, which makes it an attractive design accent in the dark. A fusion of form and function, this strip also holds the antenna. A closer look will show you the almost invisible grid inlayed in the transparent plastic that transfers the signal.

The two wired ports – microUSB and microHDMI – are on the sides of the phone. Both are hidden under plastic flaps to keep dust away.

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The microUSB port is on the left

The right side of the Sony Xperia SL holds a couple of other controls too – a volume rocker and a shutter key. We were hoping that the Xperia SL will address our complaints about the camera key, but we are in no luck. The thing is the button is thin and has a low profile, and while it’s easy to press, the stop between half-press and full-press can be hard to feel sometimes.

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The volume rocker and the camera key are next to the microHDMI port on the right

On the other hand, an imperfect camera key is still better than no camera key at all, so we’d like to give Sony a pat on the back for including it. Not only does it allow you to launch the camera instantly, but it also greatly improves usability, despite the flaws in this implementation.

The Power/Lock key and the 3.5mm audio jack are on the top. The audio jack is left uncovered, but that’s usually the case with these and it makes sense since it will probably see plenty of use.

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The power button and the 3.5mm audio jack

There’s nothing of interest at the bottom besides the lanyard eyelet and the microphone pinhole.

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The lanyard eyelet and the microphone pinhole

The back cover of the Xperia SL is made of soft matte plastic, which feels good and hides fingerprints well. Here we find the 12MP camera lens, located very near the top edge. This means you’ll have to be extra careful not to put a finger over it when taking a photo.

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The 12 megapixel camera lens has the LED flash and the loudspeaker grille on its side

The camera is accompanied by a single-LED flash and the secondary microphone used when shooting video. The loudspeaker grille is also here.

Removing the back cover doesn’t reveal much – you’ll find the microSIM card here, but you don’t get to see the battery. What you would find is an aluminum frame painted black.

The battery is a 1750 mAh unit, which is said to provide about 420 hours of 3G stand-by 8 hours and 30 minutes of 3G talk time. The Endurance rating of the Xperia SL is 32 hours, meaning you can talk for an hour, browse the web another hour and play and hour of video a day and you’d have to charge the Xperia SL once every 32 hours.

Display

The screen on the Sony Xperia SL is certainly one of the smartphone’s highlights. It’s mesmerizingly sharp, with punchy colors and very good contrast, backed by the mobile BRAVIA engine. The fact that the Xperia SL display is one of the most pixel-dense on the market at 342ppi also helps a great deal.

Its only downside (and it’s not a minor one) is the poor viewing angles.

Anyway, the Xperia SL screen has decent blacks and even though its brightness isn’t impressive, it still managed to get a good score in our test.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Xperia SL 0.51 535 1049
Sony Xperia S -> 0.48 495 1038
Sony Xperia acro S 0.61 625 1022
LG Optimus 4X HD 0.34 369 1077 0.68 750 1102
HTC One S 0 177 ∞ 0 386 ∞

 

Sunlight legibility of the screen also turned out pretty good.

Handling

We liked the clean design of the Sony Xperia SL. The transparent strip is a unique accent and subtle enough (the Xperia pureness must be glad a small part of it lives on).

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Handling the Sony Xperia SL

The curved back fits nicely in the hand, and despite the fact it adds some extra thickness, the Xperia SL is still fairly compact and pocketable. One-handed operation is almost always possible, too.

Xperia on Ice Cream Sandwich

The Sony Xperia SL runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich out of box and it’s got the custom Sony launcher on top of it, so the interface doesn’t feel too different. It’s not exactly identical to what you got with the Xperias that started with Gingerbread and were promoted to ICS, but we still found our way around reasonably quickly.

It’s a little disappointing that the Xperia UI found on the Xperia T didn’t make its way to the SL. It had a revamped task switcher interface with the active, on-screen widgets, which featured a live overlay over the homescreen (video player, etc.) and the more functional notification area with various toggles.

As usual, we’re starting with a short video of the user interface:

The Xperia SL has the usual five-pane homescreen configuration, but there is no option to add or remove panes. Along the bottom, there are five docked shortcuts (the app drawer shortcut and two on each of its sides). These are visible across all five homescreen panes and are user configurable: they can be either single icons or folders with multiple items in them.

Speaking of folders – they show thumbnails of the first four items in them.

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The Sony Xperia SL UI • Choosing theme • Folders

As with older Sony smartphones, you can change the color theme of the launcher according to your preferences.

The homescreen does a neat trick called Overview mode. Pinch to zoom out on any of the 5 homescreen panes and a new screen opens up with a cool transition. All active widgets gather there for easy viewing and selection.

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The Overview mode helps you find the widget you are looking for

The Xperia SL has some custom-made Sony widgets in addition to the standard set. Those include the Timescape widget (there’s a dedicated app too) and a Mediascape-like widget for photos and videos (the actual app isn’t there anymore, but the Album gallery is).

When on a homescreen pressing the menu button opens up a context menu under the status bar. It gives you two options – choosing a widget and choosing a wallpaper/theme. It’s oddly placed and easy to miss at first because the animation is so underplayed it looks as if nothing has happened.

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Widgets menu • Wallpaper menu

A cool new addition to the lockscreen, missing from the pre-ICS Xperias, is the Walkman widget which lets you control music playback without unlocking the phone. You can also enable Face, Pattern, PIN or Password unlock, in ascending order of security.

Moving and removing widgets hasn’t changed and is as simple as on droids of old – hold a finger over a desired widget and move it around. The action has a cool wobble animation to it.

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Moving and deleting widgets

The standard notification area and task switcher are of course present and accounted for, with no custom touches to them. For some reason, the notification area isn’t accessible from the lockscreen as it usually is on ICS (and on other ICS-running Xperia phones).

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The lockscreen • Lockscreen options • The standard notification area and task switcher

As a part of the ICS platform you get the Data usage app. Sony provided one on Gingerbread as well, but this one is far more accurate in calculating your used traffic. It also lets you set a limit for mobile data usage for a specific period and o gives you a breakdown of which apps have used how many of your precious bytes.

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Data usage app

Sony has added its own Backup & reset feature for Android ICS. It works for apps you’ve uninstalled and then reinstalled again, restoring them with the previous saved settings. The reset menu also lies in the same submenu.

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Backup & reset

Sony have made a lot of improvements to the standard ICS build, but also omitted some that other OEMs are opting for. For example, Samsung has a Remove all feature when you open the task switcher. Also, there are still no connectivity toggles in the notification area and there’s no option to change the number homescreen panes.

Synthetic benchmarks

The Sony Xperia SL is powered by a Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon chipset, which packs two 1.7 GHz Scorpion cores, 1 GB of RAM and an Adreno 220 GPU, which has all of 1280 x 720 pixels to push. It’s a nice smartphone setup but not class leading anymore.

We begin with the Quadrant benchmark where the Xperia SL clocks in at the last spot, which is normal considering its competition is mostly quad-cores with the occasional dual-core Krait.

Phonebook

The Xperia SL phonebook is the same as the one on the Xperia T. It has slight visual changes: the bottom bar no longer shows you shortcuts to phone, favorites, contacts, and is now a search and add number field. The contacts, phone, favorites and groups tabs have been moved to the top and can be alternated by side-swipes.

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The phonebook • The quick contacts can save you a click or two • the available options

The contact list can be sorted by either first or last name. There are two contact search options – a dedicated search field on the bottom of the contact list, and an alphabetical scroll bar to jump to names starting with a specific letter on the right.

You can sync with multiple accounts, including Exchange and Facebook, and you can selectively show or hide contacts from some accounts (as well as filter specific groups in an account), or set the phonebook to display only contacts with phone numbers or only contacts that are online.

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Filtering contacts in the phonebook

If a contact has accounts in multiple services, you can “link” their details to keep everything in one place. Their Facebook photos and interests (part of the Facebook integration) will show as extra tabs.

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Viewing and editing a contact

Quick contacts are enabled – a tap on the contact’s photo brings up shortcuts for calling, texting or emailing the contact.

Each contact can have a variety of fields (and repeat fields of the same type). There’s an Add field button and the X button lets you remove fields as needed. The fields cover anything from names (including a field to write the name down phonetically) to addresses, nicknames and notes.

There is an option to redirect calls directly to voicemail. Custom ringtones are enabled too.

Smart telephony

Receiving and making calls on the Xperia SL was great. The built-in secondary microphone is used for active noise-cancellation so calls are loud and clear even in noisy environments.

The Xperia SL phone app features smart dialing. It searches for matches in both the contacts’ phones and names. There’s voice dialing too (the quickest way to activate it is to press and hold the hardware Search key).

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Smart dialing is available • Dialer

Thanks to the proximity and accelerometer sensors, the Sony Xperia SL automatically disables the touchscreen when you lift it up during a call.

The call log is integrated in the dialer – it shows a list of recently dialed, received and missed calls in the top half of the screen and the keypad on the bottom half. Once you start typing, the call log is replaced by the smart dial list. You can hide the keypad to make more room for the call log.

We also ran our traditional loudspeaker test on the Sony Xperia SL. It managed a Good mark and will be heard loud and clear in most case scenarios. More info on our loudspeaker test can be found here.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overal score
Sony Xperia T 63.7 58.9 62.1 Below Average
Apple iPhone 5 66.8 66.1 67.7 Below Average
HTC Desire C 64.6 64.7 75.7 Average
Samsung Galaxy mini 2 S6500 69.7 66.6 71.5 Average
Sony Xperia SL (no xLOUD) 75.2 65.8 74.8 Good
Sony Xperia SL (xLOUD) 75.5 65.9 76.9 Good
Sony Xperia Go 68.7 65.8 76.2 Good
LG Optimus 4X HD 68.7 66.6 79.3 Good
Motorola RAZR XT910 74.7 66.6 82.1 Very Good
HTC Desire 76.6 75.7 84.6 Excellent

Messaging is business as usual

Text messages and MMS use standard threaded layouts. Each thread is displayed as an IM chat session, with the most recent message at the bottom. You can manage individual messages (forward, copy, delete) and even lock them against deletion.

Search is enabled to locate a specific message in all conversations and you can also activate delivery reports.

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The messaging app

Adding multimedia (photos, videos, sounds, etc.) will convert the message to an MMS.

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Creating a multimedia message

Moving on to email, the Gmail app supports batch operations, which allows multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. The app supports multiple Gmail accounts, but there’s no unified inbox for other email services.

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Gmail app supports batch operations and multiple (Gmail) accounts

However, the generic email app can do that as well. It can handle multiple POP or IMAP accounts and you have access to the messages in the original folders that are created online.

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The generic Email client has a combined inbox option

Google Talk handles Instant Messaging. The GTalk network is compatible with a variety of popular clients like Pidgin, Kopete, iChat, etc.

As for text input, the Xperia SL offers a customized on-screen full QWERTY keyboard. Typing on the portrait keyboard is fairly comfortable – the screen is big enough to house decently-sized keys that are easy to hit.

Flipping the phone to landscape gives you even bigger, easier to press buttons.

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Xperia SL keyboard is comfortable in either layout

You can also try the so-called Gesture input if hitting those keys individually doesn’t give you the desired typing speed. It works the same as Swype. Even if you’ve never used a Swype-like input before, you’ll quickly get used to it.

The brand new gallery

The Xperia SL comes with the new Sony Ice Cream Sandwich gallery, called Album.

It has a whole new interface where images are arranged into stacks of thumbnails and sorted by date. You can also opt to show all of your albums in one place. There are three tabs above the stacks – Pictures, Map and Online.

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The Album gallery

Pictures is the main tab – you can use pinch gestures to make the thumbnails bigger or smaller. Map reminds us of the iOS gallery, where all pictures with a Geo-tag are shown on a map of the world.

The Online tab uses pictures from the connected online services – Google Picasa, Facebook, etc. You have options to tag, like and comment on Facebook photos much like you did with the previous Xperia Gallery.

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The Geo-tagging à la iOS

Images in both galleries can be cropped or rotated directly in the gallery. Quick sharing via Picasa, Email apps, Facebook, Bluetooth or MMS is also enabled.

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Viewing an image

The BRAVIA engine enhances contrast and colors by sharpening the image and reducing noise. These steps normally lead to visual artifacts, but you’ll have to look at them very close up to notice. You can switch BRAVIA off, but we recommend keeping it on – it really improves the viewing experience.

Video player is new too

In keeping with the new music player and gallery, Sony has added a new video player as well. It’s dubbed Movies and it too has a new interface. It’s connected to Gracenote, which helps you find additional information about the movies you have preloaded.

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Watching a video on the Xperia SL

DivX and XviD videos support is iffy to say the least. Most of the videos we tried didn’t play on the Xperia SL and it did have issues even with mp4 files. We found that there’s an issue with audio playback as mp4 files with AAC sound weren’t a problem. 720p videos were handled with ease, 1080p videos were also watchable but not all of them. Overall, we suggest converting all your movies into the appropriate format or just downloading a video player off the Google Play Store with support for more video codecs.

Walkman music player on board

To complete the trio of redesigned Sony apps is the new Walkman music player. It retains all the functionality of the older music players but adds a little bit extra here and there.

It is divided into Playing and My music panels.

In the My music section, you can update your album art and music information like album, year, and more. SensMe is included, meaning you can filter your songs by type – upbeat, energetic, mellow, dance, etc. Creating playlists is enabled and you can also view your Facebook buddies’ activity if they too use the Walkman player.

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The music player is decent looking and snappy

The Now Playing screen offers the standard music controls, shortcuts to the library, “Infinity” key and the song cover art. The Infinity key lets you quickly look up a song on YouTube or browse for the lyrics, among others.

Currently, the only available visualization is the album art.

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The Now Playing interface • The equalizer

Finally, the Walkman player offers support for customizable equalizer settings, giving die-hard audiophiles the chance to fiddle around with the individual EQ bands.

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Sound enhancements and EQ

While the rest of the music player is the same as what we saw on the neo V, this one adds music controls to the lockscreen. Swiping them either side brings back the clock. The notification area also offers the now playing screen with music controls and the option to jump into the Walkman player.

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Music player controls on the lockscreen and notification area

The Sony Xperia SL also features an FM Radio aboard complete with RDS support – an improvement over the Neo L, which had no FM Radio at all.

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The FM Radio

Good audio quality

The Sony Xperia SL did excellently in the first part of our traditional audio quality test. The smartphone got very good scores all over and if it wasn’t for the only average volume levels it would have been perfect.

There’s some degradation when you plug in a pair of headphones, but things certainly aren’t too bad. The stereo crosstalk rises and some distortion creeps in. Volume levels remain about the same, though, which is not a common sight among smartphones. A solid overall performance, which should please anyone but the most demanding audiophiles.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia SL +0.10, -0.10 -87.2 87.4 0.011 0.019 -87.9
Sony Xperia SL (headphones attached) +0.52, -0.11 -87.3 87.1 0.051 0.323 -49.0
Sony Xperia T +0.11, -0.10 -86.1 87.8 0.023 0.023 -84.1
Sony Xperia T (headphones attached) +0.43, -0.11 -86.1 87.5 0.140 0.260 -62.7
Sony Xperia S +0.10, -0.09 -86.6 86.8 0.011 0.018 -86.9
Sony Xperia S (headphones attached) +0.44, -0.13 -88.4 88.6 0.264 0.338 -47.3
LG Optimus 4X HD +0.02, -0.52 -74.8 74.8 0.345 0.318 -81.6
LG Optimus 4X HD (headphones attached) +0.03, -0.51 -70.1 69.9 0.815 0.811 -64.5
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III +0.03, -0.05 -90.3 90.3 0.012 0.018 -92.6
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III (headphones attached) +0.11, -0.04 -90.2 90.2 0.0092 0.090 -53.1
HTC One X +0.02, -0.08 -82.1 82.1 0.137 0.393 -80.7
HTC One X (headphones attached) +0.10, -0.10 -80.6 80.6 0.174 0.459 -60.8

Sony Xperia SL frequency response
Sony Xperia SL frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

12 MP Camera comes with its own interface

The Xperia SL boasts a 12 megapixel camera with a back-illuminated Exmor R sensor and a single LED flash. It’s capable of producing stills of 4000 x 3000 resolution. We have every reason to believe that the Xperia SL features the same image sensor and module as the Xperia S and possibly the acro S.

The camera controls on the Xperia SL are identical to those of the Xperia S – they are available on two taskbars on either side of the viewfinder. On the left you get four shortcuts to various settings, while the still camera/camcorder toggle, the virtual shutter and a thumbnail of the last photo taken are on the right.

The menu key brings up two pages of extra settings – scenes, resolution, smile detection, geotagging, image stabilization and focus mode among others. You can customize three of the shortcuts on the left (the shooting mode shortcut is fixed).

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Sony Xperia Sl Sony Xperia Sl
The new camera interface

There are five capture modes to choose from: Normal, Scene recognition, Sweep Panorama, Sweep Multi Angle and 3D Sweep Panorama. In Normal, you pick the Scene settings manually or you can enable Scene recognition and let the Xperia S take a guess (it’s fairly good at it).

The 3D Sweep Panorama is business as usual – you press the shutter key and pan the phone across the scene. The resulting panoramic photo can be viewed in both 2D and 3D (on a compatible TV).

The Sweep Multi Angle is much more impressive – you take a photo in the exact same way, but the result is very different. It produces something like a lenticular card, providing a different perspective when viewed at an angle.

Tilting the phone lets you look at the object from different sides. A shot of a moving object looks like an animated GIF or creates interesting and sometimes comical distortions.Photos taken in Sweep Multi Angle mode are handled by a separate app called 3D album, and not listed in the regular gallery. And just to make it clear again – the Xperia SL doesn’t have a 3D screen, but rather cleverly relies on its sensors to detect the handset movement and it changes the on-screen image accordingly.

The Xperia SL features a Quick launch option, which lets you customize the phone’s behavior upon a press of the camera key when the phone is locked. The default option is Launch and capture – it unlocks the phone, starts the camera and instantly snaps a photo.

It’s hard to frame the first shot right from this mode, but you can quickly take another photo as the camera reloads quite fast. The other option is to just unlock the phone and start the camera, or you can disable the feature altogether.

The Sony Xperia SL proved to be a very capable shooter. It produces images with loads of detail and great colors, especially at base ISO when there’s plenty of light. The camera was also very fast to start up and locks in on targets very quickly, rarely missing to focus or focusing on the wrong thing.

Noise is kept well under wraps – it’s only visible in areas with solid color like the sky, windows, etc.



Sony Xperia SL camera samples

Detail is very impressive even from very up close and having the physical shutter key really adds to the ease of use when shooting with the Xperia SL.

Overall, the camera on the Xperia SL shows a tendency towards regaining the past legacy of Sony Ericsson as a good cameraphone maker. What we like about it is that even with the right hardware on board Sony have tweaked the software just right so that it produces good results in every condition.

Image quality comparison

The Sony Xperia SL enters our photo quality comparison tool butting heads with its siblings, the Xperia S and the Xperia acro S. Feel free to choose any other adversaries you wish – the tool’s page will give you all the information on how to do that and what to watch out for.

Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
Sony Xperia SL in our Photo Compare Tool

Okay video recording

The Sony Xperia SL captures 1080p and 720p videos at 30 fps, currently the upper limit of what you can expect from a smartphone.

The camcorder has similar settings to the still camera, including focus mode, metering, exposure value, image stabilization and so on. The layout of the shortcuts can be customized here, too.

The Xperia SL camcorder features continuous autofocus. It may take a few seconds to refocus after you re-frame but that’s better than repeatedly attempting to lock focus and ruining your video.

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Switching to camcorder modeFullHD videos are stored in MP4 format (19Mbps bitrate) and the frame rate nails the 29fps mark. The Xperia SL videos come with stereo sound recorded at 131Kbps bitrate and 48kHz sampling – all pointing to slightly superior video recording compared to the Xperia S.

While numbers show a potential for high quality the actual end result isn’t as good. The Xperia SL produces smooth videos with okay colors but the level of detail isn’t inspiring and the videos look blurry and lack the proper sharpness you get with devices like the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III.

Here is a 1080p video sample captured with the Xperia SL.

720p videos are a slightly different story. While audio bitrate and sample rate remain the same, the video bitrate measures around 12Mbps.

If you want to look closer at the video quality, you can download 1080p and 720p samples taken straight off the device.

Video quality comparison

We’ve added the Xperia SL to our video comparison tool. See how it fares against the likes of the Xperia acro S and the Xperia S.

Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool
Sony Xperia SL in our Video Compare Tool

Full-fledged connectivity

The Sony Xperia SL has quad-band 2G and 3G. Mobile data speeds are boosted by 14.4 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76Mbps HSUPA.

Local connectivity is covered by Wi-Fi b/g/n with DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct, so you can easily share content from your phone on a DLNA TV or music player. There’s also Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP.

MicroUSB handles the charging and connecting to your PC and there’s also USB On-the-go support so you can attach external flash drives to the SL.

Media Remote isn’t preinstalled on the Xperia SL but you can get it through the Google Play Store. It will serve as a remote control for DLNA-capable BRAVIA TVs and Sony DVD/Blu-ray players too. There are a few versions of the interface ranging from simply changing the channels to mouse input and viewing disc history.

The Media Remote app is also available for free so that other Android smartphones can use it too.

The Xperia SL also comes with Sony’s Smart Connect app, which replaces the former LiveWare manager, although the functionality remains basically the same. With Smart connect, you can automate a lot of tasks and settings on your device, like launching an app when you connect an accessory, or turning features on or off depending the phone’s on charger and what-not.

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LiveWare manager can, for example, launch the music player as soon as you connect a headset

Web browsing is nice on ICS

The Sony Xperia SL enjoys the well known Android ICS web browser. This browser has a streamlined interface, incognito browsing and other cool features.

The browser is quite minimalistic; all you get is the URL bar with a tabs shortcut. Hitting the Menu key you get more options – Refresh, Forward, Save to bookmarks, Share page, Find on page, full settings and a couple of more – Request desktop site (no more hunting for that “Desktop” option buried at the bottom of the site) and Save for offline reading.

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The web browser was redesigned

The full settings menu includes some really interesting options. For example, you can set your search engine to Yahoo or Bing, you can adjust text size and the level of which double tap will zoom in.

The browser borrows several features from its desktop counterpart: when searching for something, if the browser is confident you’ll click on a certain search result, it will start preloading that page right away so that it opens faster if you do click it. You can set this feature to work over Wi-Fi only to preserve data.

The other trick is the ability to open Incognito tabs.

Speaking of tabs, the tab switching interface looks exactly like the Recent apps list. You can even close tabs by swiping them off the screen.

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Switching tabs works the same way as switching apps does

Quick controls (available as a Google Labs extra) reveal five controls (New tab, Tabs, URL, Bookmarks, More) when you slide your finger in from the side. These really go a long way in improving the browser experience. Another cool feature from Labs is Full screen, which squeezes in a little more screen real estate by hiding the status bar.

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The Quick controls

The Adobe Flash Player app has been omitted from the Google Play store so if you don’t side-load it from somewhere the SL will only be able to handle HTML 5 videos out of the box.

You can also opt for the much-improved Google Chrome web browser. It’s very smooth and doesn’t crash nearly as much as when it was in beta mode. The interface is pretty simple – you get a combined URL and search bar on the top. To the right of it there’s a tab switcher button with the number of open tabs on it. Hitting the menu button reveals options like new tab, bookmarks, look at closed tabs on other devices, request desktop site, etc.

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Google Chrome

Switching between tabs is very intuitive. You just swipe to the left or right to move between various open pages. In the tab interface you can also swipe away tabs you don’t want anymore.

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Switching tabs in Chrome

Chrome offers full synchronization with your Google account. Just type it in and it will immediately connect to all of your devices with Chrome installed. The only thing that doesn’t get synced are your passwords.

Great organizing skills

The Sony Xperia SL doesn’t come with many organizational apps preinstalled. There’s no office document viewer, for instance, although you can get one from the Google Play store.

There’s a Notes app that comes with the Xperia SL. It’s pretty simple to use – you can select the color of the note and just start typing. There’s a handwriting recognition option too allowing you to draw with your hands on the Xperia SL or just use a stylus of some kind.

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The Notes app

The Power Saver app helps you extend your battery life by toggling things like Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth screen brightness, auto sync and background data on and off automatically when the battery charge falls below a certain user-defined threshold.

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The Power saver app

The calendar has three different types of view – daily, weekly and monthly. The lower section of the screen is reserved for a list of upcoming events. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder.

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The organizer centerpiece – the calendar

The Calendar also pulls info on upcoming events from your Facebook account. Facebook events appear just like regular calendar entries, but you can’t edit them on the phone as they are read-only.

There is a nicely touch-optimized calculator aboard. The buttons are really big and easy to hit, and you can expand it to include advanced functions (trigonometry, logarithms).

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Regular Calculator • Scientific Calculator

The alarm clock app supports multiple alarms, each with its own start and repeat time. The Alarms app can also work as a desk clock – you have a big toggle for the brightness, as well as weather info and shortcuts to a gallery slideshow and the music player.

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The Clock • Creating alarm

The stopwatch, world clock and timer are available within the clock app.

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World Clock • Stopwatch • Timer

The Google Play store is full of free apps that will cater to all your organizing needs.

Offline Google Maps and Wisepilot navigation

The Sony Xperia SL comes with a GPS receiver, which took about a minute to get satellite lock upon a cold start. You can use the A-GPS functionality to get near instantaneous locks. Alternatively, network positioning will do if you only need a rough idea of your location.

Google Maps is a standard part of the Android package and we’ve covered it many times before. It offers voice-guided navigation in certain countries and falls back to a list of instructions elsewhere.

3D buildings are shown for some of the bigger cities and you can use two-finger camera tilt and rotate to get a better view of the area.

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Google Maps

Google Maps uses vector maps, which are very data efficient. The latest version has an easy to use interface for caching maps – you just choose “Make available offline” from the menu and pan/zoom around until the desired area is in view (there’s an indicator showing how much storage caching that area will take). You can later view cached areas and delete ones you no longer need.

Note that there’s a limit to the size of the area you can cache – you can’t just make all of Europe available offline, not even a whole country. We managed to cache a big city and some surrounding regions before Maps told us the area is too big. Also, there’s no address search in the cached maps and you can only cache map data in supported regions of the world.

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Making an area of the map available for offline usage is very easy

You can plan routes, search for nearby POI and go into the always cool Street View. The app will reroute you if you get off course, even without a data connection.

Wisepilot is also part of the Sony Xperia SL package, with a 30 days trial of the full navigation license and downloadable maps for offline navigation.

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WisePilot navigation

Play Store has everything

Running on Android ICS, the Xperia SL has access to the latest apps and the ample built-in memory will guarantee you won’t have trouble with space.

The Store is organized in a few scrollable tabs – categories, featured, top paid, top free, top grossing, top new paid, top new free and trending. The in-app section is untouched though and it’s very informative – a description, latest changes, number of downloads and comments with rating. There is usually a demo video and several screenshots for most apps too.

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The Google Play Store

There are all kinds of apps in the Google Play Store and the most important ones are covered (file managers, navigation apps, document readers etc.).

Final Words

Sony has finally caught up with the competition in the Android mobile space. Once plagued by update issues and lack of powerful processing skills, the Xperia smartphones played an underhanded role and failed to make a serious impact, giving way to bold Galaxies and Desires to grab a strong hold.

With offerings that are now sporting dual-core Krait-clad processors and more megapixels than the fingers on both your hands, it seems Sony’s Xperia is gathering friction again. So where does that leave the Xperia SL? An almost exact match to the Xperia S, but arriving an extra year later, the Xperia SL can’t help but be demoted to midrange ranks.

Sony has the high-end well covered. With the Xperia T roaring into markets all around the world it’s the midrange and low-end that need attention. Sony already has plenty of battle-ready smartphones waiting to tackle the opposition but a seasoned expert like the Xperia SL couldn’t hurt. The Xperia J, Xperia V, tipo, miro, go and acro S, etc. could all use an experienced veteran such as the Xperia SL to keep carrying the Xperia flag.

But should you go for it and churn out the considerable amount of cash Sony is asking? Let’s have a look at the competition, shall we?

The Xperia S, naturally, is first to spring to mind. It costs a serious chunk less than the Xperia SL and is basically the same phone. It finally got the Android ICS treatment and it has the same processor which can be overclocked if those 200 MHz are all-important to your geeky self-pride.

Then, there’s the Xperia acro S. It’s pretty much the same package but adds expandable storage and a pinch of underwater and dust resistance. It also matches the Xperia SL on price.

Sony Xperia S Sony Xperia acro S
Sony Xperia S • Sony Xperia acro S

A glance in HTC’s direction reveals a couple of good-looking droids with Beats Audio on board. The One X has a bigger, gorgeous screen, a quad-core Tegra 3 processor that’s more than adequate and a stunning polycarbonate finish with eccentric smooth accents. It will set you back a bit more than an Xperia SL but is more likely to receive Android Jelly Bean than the Sony smartphone. The One S overtakes the Xperia SL on processing, having a potent Qualcomm S4 CPU ticking inside its mechanical chest. It’s also cheaper and, one would argue, prettier than an Xperia SL. But it loses on display resolution bringing forth only a qHD screen, albeit of the gorgeous Super AMOLED variety.

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HTC One X • HTC One S

If you’re not too hung up on the latest processor or expandable storage you could opt for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Android purists will also prefer it because of the timely software updates and the lack of custom launchers on top. It also costs considerably less than an Xperia SL whilst bringing an HD Super AMOLED screen on board with a comparable dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus I9250
Samsung Galaxy Nexus I9250

And finally, we give you the LG Optimus 4X – a quad-core Tegra 3 device with a 4.7″ True-HD IPS display of 720p resolution, which has LG’s affordable mindset behind it. It will set you back slightly less, while giving you more in terms of hardware. It also adds a microSD card slot to the equation making the choice a practical no-brainer.

LG Optimus 4X HD P880
LG Optimus 4X HD P880

We think the Xperia SL has reasons to compete but coupled with an overly ambitious price tag which could prove harmful. And if you’re an owner of an Xperia S you really won’t be able to find solid grounds on which to upgrade to an Xperia SL, other than the name that is. So why go for it at all? Well, it’s a solid smartphone, has ICS right out of the box, a beautiful HD display and a potent snapper on the back.

It all comes down to the capabilities you put the most stock in. If those are timely software updates or the latest processor tech, then you’d be better off with another smartphone. But if a high-res screen and camera are all-important to you, there’s little chance you’ll regret an Xperia SL purchase.

 

 

 

Source: GSM Arena

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