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Friday, September 27, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review



After 8 months with my Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos, I decided that it was finally time for an upgrade. It was starting to show its age and after installing so many apps, it was struggling to keep up with my daily tasks. Also, it was frustrating to see all these budget locals brands bringing in quad-core phones left and right and here I am stuck with a dual-core phone. My dilemma was to get the Galaxy S4 or the S4 Active. S4 had a better 13 mega pixel camera and a Super AMOLED screen while the Active only had an 8 megapixel camera and a regular TFT screen although both screens were 1080p. The Active did have one ace up its sleeve and that is its IP67 dust and water proofing. As most techies know, having this kind of dilemma is a nice problem to have and as it is obvious, I ended up choosing the Active. Let's see if I made the right decision.

S4 vs S4 Active

As I mentioned above, there are a few differences with these two devices. Aside from the camera , the screen is where you will notice something right away. I really missed the super AMOLED screen from my old S2 so I really wanted to get the S4 for its screen but after seeing the screen on the Active I was pleasantly surprised to find it quite bright and very sharp since they both have the same 443ppi resolution anyway. I did notice that the S4's screen was more saturated but the Active had more natural looking colors. So if you are one that likes "punchy" overly saturated colors and deep blacks then go for the S4. Design-wise, the S4 has the usual Samsung "plastic-feel" design while the Active has a more rugged look with metal looking plastic. Actually it's a nice change and I hope Samsung could incorporate this in future phone designs. What's interesting is that Samsung was still able to make the back cover removable despite being a waterproof phone. You just need to be careful in snapping the back cover as there is a technique to making sure you get a good seal. You need to make sure you snap the center back (under the LED flash). A lot of users have complained about the waterproofing because of missing this crucial snap! One surprise is that the headphone jack does not need a cover and is completely waterproof. However, the micro USB jack has a really flimsy rubber cover and I'm sure it will break one of these days. Possibly, a third party wireless charging kit from WIQIQI will be a good investment. The rest of the specs are almost the same all the way down to processor, RAM, sensors and battery. Now that's a good thing because variants of flagship phones usually have a lot of compromises.






Performance

One problem I noticed with Android is that it acts very much like Windows on a PC in a sense that out of the box even the lowest spec phone runs pretty snappy. But after loading a lot of apps and over time you notice it start to lag and it really becomes annoying. I believe that this is where iOS has the advantage. So having a Quad-Core 1.9Ghz processor and 2GB of RAM really helps. I loaded all my previous apps and more. So far it still feels like a fresh stock phone out of the box. Another compromise was the camera. But so far, it's up there with best 8 megapixel camera phones. It is missing the "Dual Shot" mode of the S4 but the rest of the other modes are included. It does have an Aqua mode for underwater shots which allows you to use the volume button as a shutter release. Quite handy since touchscreens don't work underwater. Also all the "gimmicky" smart and gesture controls you see in the TV commercials are included. Battery life is your typical smart phone charge at night affair despite the 2600mAh. It will definitely last the whole day but use it hard and you will need to bring a charger with you.

AnTuTu with power saving ON

AnTuTu with power saving OFF



Verdict

First of all you have to realize that the Active is not a rugged phone. If you drop it, it will probably break just like a regular S4. You will still need a case for added protection. If you're like me and need a little more weather protection from the occasional running in the rain or day at the beach or just simply not having to worry about the occasional water spills and toilet bowl dunks maybe this phone is for you. As of this writing the Active was about Php 26k. It's about 2-3k cheaper than the S4. To confuse you even more, Samsung's warranty does not cover water damage and on a waterproof phone that does sound unfair. Choosing between the S4 and the Active was a really hard decision. And if you are having the same dilemma, then congratulations for being such a techie.

The good:

- IP67 Water and Dust proofing
- Removable Battery
- Micro SD card expansion
- LTE (although I was not able to test it)
- Snapdragon 600 processor and 2GB of RAM

The bad

- Flimsy micro USB rubber cover
- Lower spec camera


Sunday, September 22, 2013

CD-R King Mobile Phone to HDMI Adapter mini review

One of the great joys of walking into CD-R King is that you never know what you'll end up buying. This time it was a Mobile Phone to HDMI Adapter, I just got my new Galaxy S4 Active (review coming soon) so I wanted to see what accessories I could get for it. I asked if I could test it and surprisingly it worked right away. There are three connectors. An HDMI for the TV, micro USB to your phone and a UBS plug which goes to any power supply. But you only need it if you want to charge your phone. What this adapter does is simply mirror your phone on the TV. To be honest if your phone supports this feature, for only P150 it's a real steal!



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Kata FishTab 3 Review


It's really quite amazing to see how popular tablets are today. What used to be the domain of netbooks are now replaced by slabs of glass and silicone. Right now, numerous manufacturers are competing for your hard-earned cash. With so many Android tablets in the market today, it is getting extremely difficult to choose the right one. Majority of Android tablets are in the 7-8 inch category and this is also the most competitive. Normally you would think that getting from major manufacturers like Samsung and Asus would be your best bet, however Chinese makers have really improved their quality and not considering them now would be a big mistake. One of those manufacturers is Kata. While the name may not be familiar, they have actually been in the market for some time now. They started out selling phones, then tablets. Their latest tablet is the FishTab3. The name may sound funny but I assure you that you will be pleasantly surprised.

First impressions

When I first saw the FishTab3 I really thought its was an iPad mini. There is no point in denying it but really it is an Ipad mini clone. I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. They first thing I noticed was the screen, it was nice and bright with very good viewing angles. I immediately thought that it had a retina display but after checking the specs it only had a resolution of 1024x768. Further investigation shows that it is an 8" LG sourced IPS display. Points to Kata for using a high quality screen even though its not HD.

The rest of the specs shows a lot of promise.

Rock chip RK3188 1.8Ghz Quadcore processor
2GB RAM
8GB internal storage with micro SD expansion
Android 4.2.2
5MP rear and 2MP front camera
WIFI B/GN Bluetooth 3.0
4400mAh battery

Fishtab 3 vs Ipad Mini




Everyday Performance

Using the FishTab 3 for daily tasks like surfing, email and social media is no problem at all. In fact, with 2Gb of RAM everything is nice and fluid. I'm glad to see that Kata decided to use an "almost" stock version of Android 4.2.2 Jellybean. Playing casual games like Angry Birds are very smooth. When playing more demanding games like Real Racing 3, Minecraft and Frontline Commando, I did notice a little micro second lag here and there but still very much playable. Likewise, HD video playback using MX Player was quite smooth. Also, I noticed that the touchscreen can be a little over sensitive which caused some accidental tapping. In terms of build quality, it's actually surprisingly good except for the flimsy looking home button. Thank goodness you don't really need it since you have the on screen Android soft keys. Kata should have just removed it.  I found the power/sleep button too soft that it can easily be pressed without really intending to do so. The case seems like it will scratch easily but thankfully they included a leather case and screen protector in the package. I will post some screen shots and benchmarks for those who are interested. Over all the Fishtab3 was a pleasure to use. As for the camera, let's just say it is serviceable. Don't expect anything great. But then, most tablets don't have decent cameras anyway.







Verdict

Despite some minor design flaws, my impression of this tablet was quite positive. There is one problem and it's a big one. Luckily it can easily be fixed if Kata wanted to. The price of Php 10,999 is really quite a lot. For me, the benchmark is Google's latest Asus-made Nexus 7 which can be found locally for about Php 12,000. Granted it only has a 7" screen and non-expandable storage it still blows it out of the water in every other way. Acer also makes the similarly specked but cheaper Iconia A1. I haven't even compared it against the models of the local brands like Cherry Mobile. I think Kata needs to lower their price by about 25-30% or perhaps include 3G to be competitive. In the end , the FishTab 3 is an otherwise decent tablet hampered by a high price tag.


Update 1: After writing this review I received word that Kata has an hour promo bet 6-7pm wherein you can purchase the FishTab 3 for only Php 8,799 still with the leather case and screen protector. Now that's a good deal!

The Good:

- Nice IPS screen (although not HD)
- 2 GB RAM
- Android 4.2.2

The bad:

- High price
- Flimsy home button

Update 2: You can find the Fishtab 3 at SM Cyberzones, Robinsons, Kata kiosks and Owtel stores.