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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review

Ever since Samsung has launched their phablet Samsung Galaxy Note, I have been interested in acquiring a phablet from Samsung. It did not happen until they released the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. My intention of writing up this article to look deeper into the hardware and the relationship between the hardware and the complimentary Android OS 4.4.2 Kitkat OS into the Samsung Galaxy Note 3[SM-N9005] (hereinafter SGN3). I will also be writing up in regard to the day-to-day userbility of the phablet.

What's Under the Hood

I am pretty impressed with the hardware of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. I am happy that Samsung has placed a 13MP camera at the back as well as a 2MP camera at the front for video conference or for taking selfie pictures. The 5.7" Super AMOLED capacitive screen with 386ppi is ever so responsive and it is being protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The device comes with microSD card support and for this review, I have used a Samsung Pro microSD card to conduct various tests. The Samsung Pro microSD allows a read speed of 70MB/s and a write speed of 20MB/s.

I am equally impressed with the 3GB RAM and the 32GB internal storage of the device. Please be careful as there are many versions of the device being sold in the UK so potential buyers will have to be careful before they make a decision to buy a SGN3. The list below will indicate the availability of the SGN3:

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 SM-N9000 - With 3G connectivity;
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 SM-N9002 - With 3G and dual SIM card support;
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 SM-N9005 - With 3G and LTE; and
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 SM-N9009 - CDMA 2000.

The N9005 which I am using comes with LTE Cat4 download and upload with usb 3.0 support. The SGN3 uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 which runs at 2.3 Ghz and it is a quad core Krait 400 cpu. The SGN3 supports A-GPS and GLONASS for the Russian GPS and its SAR rating for use in the EU is 0.29 watt/kg when using it closed to a person's head and 0.36 watt/kg if worn on the body. It comes with an S pen which is highly sensitive.

Android 4.4.2 OS KitKat

When you purchased the SGN3, it will most probably be equipped with the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean OS. You will then be asked to update the OS to 4.4.2. I would suggest that users should update the OS first before installing any softwares on the device. Once you have updated the OS to 4.4.2, I would suggest that you should rest the phone and then you could start install your favourite apps on the device.

Advantages of using the SGN3

When you start using the SGN3, you might feel that the device is quite big in your hand. If that is the case, you could activate the phone's one-hand opetation within settings. This will enable users to execute a function by using one hand only. Users may also feel that the screen is a beauty. I am most impressed with the smoothness of the menu speed. The screen is readable under strong sunlight. You may also want to enable 'Developer options' via this way - Settings - General - About device. Once you are within 'Above device', please click many times on the 'Build number' until you are being told that 'Developer options' is available.

With the developer options, you could actually disable many animations to speed up the menu even further.

Besides that, I am also impressed with the performance of the 13MP digital camera. With the upgraded firmware to 4.4.2, I do not experience any lag when taking pictures. Moreover, with the video function, users can also enable the 'smooth recording' under 'recording mode' to enable 60fps recording. The result is ever so stunning! The pictures taken under normal sun light is ever so impressive, similarly with the video recording under normal sunlight. However, I think the Nokia Lumia 1020 produced better pictures and videos under low light. However, the Nokia Lumia 1020 suffered from 3 seconds delay in between taking pictures. The delay has been reduced to 2 seconds after the upgrade to Nokia Black. If you are an iphone user, you might find taking pictures or videos on the Nokia Lumia 1020 inconvenience. I hope that futher firmware updates on the Nokia Lumia 1020 will enable zero shutter lag on the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Despite many complaints about its inbuild wireless antenna performance, I do not find any problems when using it though. I like the fact that the SGN3 has many inbuild features eg: NFC, bluetooth 4.0 and other 2014 specifications, I have yet to try out many of its features except for Bluetooth 4.0. I am happy to report that the bluetooth 4.0 performed remarkably.

With the 5.7" inch screen, watching movies on the SGN3 is exceptionally marvellous. The screen is crisp and clear without any lagging. Moreover, the device supports many audio and video codecs. The speaker is good but I would recommend using a pair of loud speakers if you want to watch a movie on your desk with the phablet.

The removable 3200mAh battery has solid performance! Usually a single charge will allow me to use it for one day. This is good due to the fact that the screen on the SGN3 is huge!

I seldom use the S Pen so I could not really commend on it but it looks cool.

I can report that the day-to-day usage of the phone to receive and make calls is good. I don't have any problems with drop signals despite using SIM cards from many mobile network operators in the UK. The GPS lock is fast and I am equally impressed.

Disadvantages

While I have not encoutered any problems with the userbility when using the SGN3, I find that the phablet may be slightly too big to keep it in my back pocket. On the other hand, the weight of the phone at 168g is way heavier than the iphone 5s which I am so accustomed to. However, I find that the 168g is nothing compared to my good old Nokia E90 which is weighted at around 200g with cover.

Conclusion

I feel that Samsung has done a good job in producing the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. However, in anticipating the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 4 after the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S5 a week ago, I hope that the successor to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will include optical image stabilisation.

Keep up the good work, Samsung.



Saturday, 1 March 2014

Mobile Phone Plan Price Increase

I am disgusted by the move of the many mobile phone companies in the UK to increase their prices during mid-contract. While I understand that mobile phone companies have struggled to make even more profit after the ruling by Ofcom and the EU Competition Commissioner to reduce roaming charges. The ruling by the EU Competition Commissioner to cap all incoming and outgoing roaming charges were well received by customers within the EU because it means that customers will not be charged at an astronomical price when they returned to their home country. The downside to this is that mobile companies no longer have the leverage to charge customers at a higher price. It cuts into their profit level.

Apart from that, the ruling from the recent report from Ofcom stated that mobile networks must notify customers if they want to increase customer's tariff during mid-contract. This comes as a good moves for customers but there are already drawbacks. One of harem would be the move by mobile network O2 in the Uk. They have pre-empt the decision by Ofcom by inserting exclusion clauses to prevent O2 customers from cancelling their contract even though there is a price increase during mid-term of he heir contract. The only way which customers could cancel their contract is to pay an Early Termination Fee.

On this note, O2's desire to increase customer's price plan during mid-contract is far from over. Most of the O2 customers have not received any news about the increase of their price plan via post or via text. The only thing which O2 did was to post a small article on their website indicating that there will be a price increase. What is going on with O2? I feel that O2 customers have been short-changed in this situation.

The bad news is that O2 is not the only mobile phone company in this bandwagon.other mobile phone companies eg: Vodafone, EE, T-Mobile, Orange and Tesco Mobile have indicated that they will be increasing their price tariff during a customer's contractual duration. So far, only EE have decided to inform customers of their intention to increase customer's tariffs via text messages, post and by giving customers a telephone call.

As for me, I think these companies are highly unethical. I will be using 3UK when my contract with O2 expire. So long, O2.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Vodafone 4G Review

I have been longing for a good signal in my area particularly when no mobile network in the UK could provide me with a decent 3G signal. Typically I will only have five bar 2G on Vodafone which is not good at all. I then complaint to Vodafone customer service and they said that there is not much thing they could do to improve the signal at my area although it is mentioned that I should have a good 3G in my area.

Since the announcement of 4G by Vodafone, I have been asking Vodafone customer service as to whether there would be a good 4G signal in my area and they said that I will have a very good 4G signal in my area. I took their advice and purchased a 4G enabled mobile phone which will support Vodafone's 4G.

I have to make it clear that while Vodafone's 3G signal is weak, their 4G signal is very strong. In fact, I have 3 bars out of 5 bars of 4G on my mobile phone. Coupled with the fact that I am on Vodafone, I have 3 months of unlimited data to use and then followed by 12GB of data every month until my contract runs out in 12 months time.

I think it is much safer to chat with a Vodafone customer service advisor online before visiting a store. I think their customer service needs improvement. I think they should learn some tricks from 3UK. I had a long history with Vodafone where I had to call them a few times to do a simple thing which would have taken 3 minutes to do in the first place.

Anyway, I am pretty happy with the performance of the 4G. I could download apps up to 44Mbps and an upload speed of 10Mbps. I think that is impressive. Keep it up, Vodafone.


Tesco Hudl Tablet - A Valuable Competitor of the Ipad Mini and Google Nexus 7 (2nd Generation)

I was intrigued by the move of Tesco to launch their Hudl Tablet for a mere £119. It shares many up to date specifications of a modern tablet eg: quadcore chipset, HD screen, 16GB of internal memory with the option of increasing the storage to 48GB in total by inserting a 32GB memory card, stereo speakers and two cameras (one in front of the tablet and another, at the back of the tablet).

I am of the opinion that Tesco might not be able to make a huge profit by selling the tablet at such a low price but this issue will be dealt with later. As for this article, I will begin by providing a review on the Hudl's hardware and also on the software before comparing it with the Ipad Mini and the second generation of the Nexus 7.

The chipset found in the Hudl is not a yesterday's item. The 1.6Ghz quadcore cpu coupled with 1GB of memory and featured a respectable Mali-400 gpu with 16GB of storage space is a direct competitor to the Amazon Kindle HD, the Apple Ipad Mini and also the Google Nexus 7 (2nd generation). Apart from that, the Hudl have a pair of loud speakers but the sound may be distorted if put on too loud. It comes with a primary 3MP digital camera for the back and a 2MP for video calling or video conferencing. I am also impressed with the weight of the device which comes in around 380g. The IPS HD screen is bright and I have no problem in using it under direct sunlight. It comes with bluetooth, GPS and external memory storage for up to 32GB. Consumers can choose up to four colours when ordering for the Hudl tablet. 

So far, I have no issues with the hardware of the Hudl although the quadcore Mali-400 gpu seems to be quite old right now. The same gpu was featured in many mobile devices including the Samsung Galaxy S2. Nevertheless, I could not complain due to the price of the tablet in question.

In relation to the software made for the Hudl, it comes with the Android 4.2. When you boot up the device, it will ask you to upgrade the firmware to 1.2. You would need to have a wifi connection to update the firmware though. The whole process would not take a long time. It took me around 10 minutes to download and install the new firmware. The tablet will then reboot after installing the new firmware.

In respect to the user-friendliness, I have to be critical in the sense that the response when you touch on the screen is not as quick as you would have imagined on a quadcore tablet. However, I would not hesitate to start returning the tablet to Tesco because it does the job. I always use it for browsing and do presentation which has no problem at all.

There is only one thing which annoyed me a lot which is the location of the charging port and the location of the camera. The charging port is smacked right in the middle of the tablet so it is really difficult to use it while you charge the tablet. Apart from that, the location of the front video camera is in the middle - landscape mode. I am so used to the front video camera being at the side when you put the tablet in landscape mode but that is just my preference.

In using the tablet, I have not encountered any forced reboot of the software due to severe lagging of the device. In fact, it is serving me quite nicely. Moreover, the device can take in an external memory card up to 32GB which is really convenient. You can store your videos and pictures on the memory card instead of inside the device. Best of all ,you have a stereo speakers at the back but it will be covered when you use a cover so you would have to increase the volume if you are using a cover.

In conclusion, despite many shortcomings, the Hudl tablet from Tesco is worth a try. The nearest rival, the Google Nexus 7, is almost £80 more. I am satisfied with the customer service offered by Tesco in relation to the device itself. Kudos to Tesco in this occasion.


Friday, 19 July 2013

Vodafone's Decline in Profits - What's the Problem?

Vodafone's declined in profits have sprung warnings across other telecommunication networks in the region. What are the possibilities which caused Vodafone's profit to decrease?

While I am not able to discuss about the reasons behind the decrease of Vodafone's profit in other region, I might be able to discuss about the possible reasons which lead to the decrease in Vodafone's profit in the UK. We shall start with Vodafone's customer service.

Traditionally Vodafone's customer service has been their strongest point until recently. I have been a customer of Vodafone for the past ten years but I have not encountered a problem with bad attitude of their customer service until recently. I have no idea the change in the attitude of those lovely people but I feel that some Vodafone customers no longer feel the need to remain loyal to Vodafone.

Apart from a degrading customer service, Vodafone's 3G service should be called to question. I am wondering whether anyone will take note but I think I will give my unbiased review of Vodafone's 3G service in this post.

Initially, Vodafone's 3G service was pretty decent. They have lots of transmission masks around the UK including the countryside. I was getting a good signal using my trusted Nokia E90. I have endless joy using data via 3G on the Nokia E90. Out of the blues, the 3G signal just vanished. I was gobsmacked. I ended up calling customer service many times. However, I have come to a conclusion that they will not be able to help me because they said that my house is situated at the very end of a transmission tower which I beg to differ because I was getting a very good 3G service on my E90 until a few years ago.

The customer service agent then changed her attitude and said that they are working on their 3G signal. She then told me that they are going to release their 4G service and it will be much better than their 3G service.

At this moment, I am stuck on using 2G on my mobile phone but luckily I have wifi at home so it is not that bad. The point is that Vodafone knows that they have signal issues with their 3G service but they could not do anything more to improve the service!

Moreover, their price plan is also quite expensive as compared to other mobile networks eg: T-Mobile and other virtual networks like Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Giffgaff.

It is time for Vodafone to improve on their 3G signal to regain the crown. I have faith in Vodafone but they need to speed up in their improvements!

Update:

21 December 2013 - I have tried my level best to give Vodafone UK a chance to redeem itself. Recently I have upgraded my only contract with them for a Samsung flagship phone. Suffice to say, I was unhappy with their service. It has come to my attention that there are two types of contract where (a) store or (b) online. If you have upgraded your contract online or via the telephone, you have a better chance of seeking a replacement of the phone as opposed to upgrading your Vodafone contract in the store.

It is just a piece of advice but I will not recommend Vodafone UK anymore because they have absolutely no interest in providing good customer service especially those service assistance in the store. If you really need to stay with Vodafone, I would recommend you to take up a contract online or via the telephone and never ever sign up to a mobile contract in the store. You will regret it.

Vodafone UK does not put customers first. Apart from their poor 3G coverage in the country, their so called 4G coverage remain patchy. O2 UK arguably have the best 4G coverage in the country although EE have more 4G coverage than O2 UK. My analysis is O2 UK have the best 4G coverage in terms of stability and speed. No wonder Vodafone UK is losing customers much faster than other mobile network providers. It does not make sense if Vodafone UK is asking customers to pay £42 a month with 3 months unlimited data service if the customer can only receive 2G data for most of the time. Is this the way how Vodafone UK want to move forward to attract more customers? If that is an affirmation, I pity those Vodafone customers. Even ASDA have decided to ditch Vodafone UK and utilise EE for their prepaid service. I wonder why was the need to switch mobile partner. Perhaps this might provide a glimps of the true reason for the split. So long, Vodafone UK.

Friday, 12 July 2013

MSI GE40-20C Dragon Eye - Acer Aspire 3820 Clone?

I am curious in acquiring a portable laptop without sacrificing the raw power of a laptop since the release of the MacBook Pro 15 with retina display (hereinafter MBP-r). The  MBP-r is a good laptop. It comes with an 15.4" screen with retina display and it weighs approximately 2.02kg. If you have purchased a full body transparent casing for the laptop, you will be looking at a total weight of 2.5kg. Bearing in mind that even after the installation of the casing on the MBP-r, it is still considered light in weight. One of the strong points of the MBP-r is the low noise level and the slim chassis with a backlit keyboard. However, the problem with the MBP-r is that users will not be able to upgrade cpu and the memory as they are soldered on the motherboard. Above all, it is fairly expensive as it is being sold around £2000 in the UK.

Will a consumer be able to obtain a laptop which has similar specification as the MBP-r without breaking the bank account? Yes, indeed.

MSI has just launched their gaming laptop called GE40-20C Dragon Eye. The chassis is similar to the old Acer Aspire 3820 which I had before. Consumers in the USA and in many parts of the world will be able to customise their MSI GE40-20C but the option is not available in the UK. The GE40-20C is quick to boot up after I have swapped the original 750GB HDD for a 250GB Samsung 840 SSD. I have also managed to upgrade the existing 8GB DDR3L SODIMM memory to 16GB DDR3L SODIMM. Users will have to pay attention as the memory is not the normal DDR3 memory but instead, it is the newer DDR3L SODIMM memory. At this moment in time, it is very difficult to obtain another stick of DDR3L SODIMM memory from ADATA so many users of the laptop have sorted to sell the existing memory and buy a pair of 8GB DDR3 SODIMM memory from Kingston.

I am also happy with the performance of the laptop. Apart from swapping the hard drive and adding more memory, I have also swapped the wifi/Bluetooth combo card to my old Intel Advanced N6235 as the Azureware 1x1 ART8723AE wifi/Bluetooth combo card is nowhere near the superb performance of the N6235 card from Intel.

Some users have complaint about the noise level of the unit but I have no such problem at this moment. Perhaps potential buyers in the USA might want to modify their GE40-20C's copper heatsink solution as it is available from Xotic PC to ensure that they will definitely not have any problem with the heat especially during gaming. I am not sure whether the company will be able to sell the modified copper heatsink to customers outside USA but I will have to try asking them for help.

If you are thinking of downgrading the existing GE40-20C from Windows 8 to Windows 7, it is possible provided you download all the necessary drivers and utility suits for Windows 7 before you commence downgrading. I would advise users to avoid meddling with BIOS update.

Since I had the machine for four days, I am satisfied with the performance of the usb 3 ports on the left hand side of the machine and the speedy starting and shutting down time of the machine. I would recommend users to downgrade the machine from Windows 8 to Windows 7. Apart from that, the machine is very portable and it fits into my medium sized bag! I think the 14" 1600x900 resolution anti-glare screen with almost 8 hours of usage with a single charge with light surfing the internet and accessing word processor heavily is a good buy.

When it comes to gaming, users may feel that the noise is loud but it is bearable. The palm rest may get slightly hot but other than that, the machine is fine. The sound system is good even though it comes with a pair of stereo speaker without a subwoofer.

Overall, with a price of £955.14 from Scan computer in the UK, it is worth every penny of it. However, you need to be careful with computers being sold online as it might be returned units within the 14 days cooling period and it has been mixed up and being sold as new. Just be careful.



Nokia Lumia 1020 - Make or Break

Ever since the very first leak about the so called Nokia "EOS" being widely distributed across the internet, I have been fascinated by the hardware of the device. I want to witness myself during the launch of the "EOS" which is now known as the Nokia Lumia 1020 as I am really interested in the performance of the 41MP camera on the phone itself.

I gather that the initiative to launch a new 41MP camera device is nothing new to Nokia. If you noticed during the beginning of Steven Elop's address recently, he voiced out Nokia's innovation in creating good camera mobile phones which includes the Nokia N8, Nokia 808 Pureview and now the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Since the launch of the Nokia Lumia 1020 (hereinafter NL1020), many sample videos and still pictures have being uploaded onto Youtube. From my understanding, the six element Advanced Carl Zeiss lens 41MP camera is a serious threat to both the Apple Iphone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 range of mobile devices.

Traditionally, the camera function on the iOS is pretty slick as users can always experience zero lag shutter. There are still some lag on the Samsung Galaxy S4 despite the South Korean's beat effort in providing zero lag shutter speed. I believe that the NL1020 has the potential to chew away some of both Apple and Samsung's customer if users are longing to  use an alternative device to an SLR camera.

On paper, the NL1020 is superb. The hardware and the design of the mobile device is somehow similar to the Nokia Lumia 920 minus the weight (The NL1020 is slighter lighter) and the NL1020 comes with a huge camera lens. I will be very interested to get myself a Nokia Lumia 1020 for a spin since I am in the mood of taking pictures. The good news is that the NL1020 will be available in the UK via both 3UK and O2 beginning of September 2013. I guess it will be worth waiting for the device to be purchased in September 2013.

Let's face it - Nokia has the upper hand in relation to the camera device on a mobile device but Nokia is not alone in this area. There are many companies who are offering 13MP cameras on mobile phones which includes Samsung. I think consumers might just get themselves a NL1020 although it is not running on a quadcore cpu or even loaded with an Adreno 330 gpu. However, the device will come with 2GB RAM which is worth mentioning. Most probably the NL1020 will come with the next generation of Windows Phone 8 or WP 8.1.

I think Nokia should release the NL1020 to users within two weeks of launch as it will help the company to regain some market share. Otherwise Nokia might face their biggest threat from Apple when they launch their successor to the Iphone 5.

Good luck to Nokia.