29 Jun 2015
When it comes to wearable tech, all eyes appear to be on the Apple Watch. That said, it faces determined competition from the very company that, just a few years ago, defined what a smartwatch could achieve: Pebble.
Following the Kickstarter-smashing success of the original Pebble Watch, the new Pebble Time is approaching release, bringing with it a stylish redesign, new voice features and software that works with Android and iOS devices alike.
We've taken a look at both the Pebble Time and the Apple Watch to see which smartwatch, on paper, deserves to take the world's wrists by storm.
Dimensions and design
Apple Watch: 39x33x10.5mm or 42x40x10.5mm
Pebble Time: 40.5x37.5x9.5mm
While the Pebble Time's length and width sit in between the two Apple Watch sizes, it's a sliver thinner than both. It's also quite a bit lighter, weighing just 42.5g whereas the Apple Watch can vary between 56g and 125g depending on which strap is equipped. The Pebble Time should therefore have a slight edge for active users who want their smartchwatch to be as bulk-free as possible.
Strictly aesthetics-wise, though, the Apple Watch wins. The Pebble Time's bezel looks gigantic compared to Apple's slimline, polished aluminium design, which has the added practical benefit of maximising screen space.
Both devices have been built for durability, though with differing techniques. The Pebble Time's Marine-grade stainless steel case is treated with a PVD (Physical Vapour Deposited) coating for extra toughness, while the Apple Watch's own stainless steel case has been cold-forged, supposedly making it up to 80 percent stronger. The glass display is also protected by a layer of sapphire crystal. It's hard to say which has the advantage without real-world testing, though it's worth noting that Pebble claims its watch is water-resistant to 30 metres; the Apple Watch is certified to the IPX7 waterproof standard, meaning it can survive a "short duration of water duration" at depths of less than one metre.
Apple Watch: OLED Retina display, 272x340 with 290 PPI or 319x390 with 296 PPI
Pebble Time: E-Paper 2.5D display, 144x168 at 180 PPI
The Pebble Time can't hope to compete with the high resolutions and crisp PPIs of both Apple Watch sizes. Still, it's not all bad news - the 64-colour display is a big improvement on the monochrome screen of the original Pebble Watch, and the use of transflective E-Paper tech should mean the Pebble Time will be easily readable in direct sunlight.
E-Paper draws a lot less power than OLED screens as well - though for anyone for who wants their apps to look their best, the sharper Apple Watch displays should be the superior choice.
Apple Watch: watchOS
Pebble Time: Pebble OS
Both smartwatches take advantage of custom-designed operating systems to run apps and connect with other mobile devices. It's the latter regard that gives the Pebble Time one of its biggest wins over the Apple Watch: it can sync with both Android and iOS devices, whereas the Apple Watch - in typical Apple fashion - can only sync with iOS.
This will allow almost anyone to pick up a Pebble Time and have it to work together with their current smartphone or tablet; getting the most out of an Apple Watch demands the user own, or be willing to buy, an iPhone or iPad.
Functionality is a bit more even-footed. Both smartwatches support speech-to-text dictation, allowing users to respond to text messages hands-free. Both devices will also run a huge number of first- and third-party apps, from Evernote for the Pebble Time to Instagram on the Apple Watch. However, the Pebble Time is missing one useful tool: it doesn't natively allow users to set reminders, which the Apple Watch will do out of the box. Those who want to truly future-proof their timepiece may also be tempted by the Apple Watch's support for Apple Pay, a contactless payment system backed by eight major UK banks and all major credit and debit card providers. It's due to launch in the UK this July.
Apple Watch: 205mAH, up to 72 hours' battery life
Pebble Time: 150mAH, up to seven days' battery life
No contest here; even with the smaller battery, the Pebble Time claims more than twice the battery life of the Apple Watch. What's more, Apple's 72-hour estimate is based on "Power Reserve" mode, which disables everything but the basic watch interface. Normal usage will, according to Apple, see battery life plummet to 18 hours at the most.
This is where the Pebble Time's E-Paper screen starts to pay off. Yes, it's not nearly as good-looking as the Apple Watch's display, but unlike the latter's OLED tech, E-Paper only draws power when refreshing - hence the lengthy battery life. Daily charging might not be a huge problem for casual consumers who can leave their Apple Watch plugged in at home overnight, but for business users who frequently travel, the Pebble Time's longevity is a considerable advantage.
Apple Watch: 8GB
Pebble Time 16MB
Storage is an easy victory for the Apple Watch, trouncing the Pebble Time's tiny 16MB flash drive. That's enough for a fair few apps, but storing music and pictures is a no-go.
To be fair, the Apple Watch makes the odd move of segregating its memory, capping picture storage to 75MB and music storage to 2GB. The rest, presumably, will be taken up by apps, settings and the OS. Still, while this limits the Apple Watch to holding a couple of hundred songs and photos, that alone is a lot more than what can be squeezed onto the Pebble Time.
While facing the hugely-anticipated Apple Watch off against the plucky, crowdfunded Pebble Time might seem like an unfair fight, the latter is a serious challenger to what might otherwise be another case of Apple dominance. The extended battery life, superior waterproofing, platform agnosticism and low price - just £179 to the £299 cost of the cheapest Apple variant, the 38mm Apple Watch Sport - will make it an attractive prospect to fitness enthusiasts and "road warrior" enterprise users alike.
Still, there's the old maxim of "you get what you pay for" to consider, and the Apple Watch clearly has the better display and storage specs. These give it a versatility which, unfortunately for this underdog, the Pebble Time just can't beat.
12 Jun 2015
Asus unveiled a number of hybrid devices, an update to its ZenWatch wearable and even a phone dedicated to selfies at Computex in June, but what stood out among the crowd - perhaps for all the wrong reasons - were two 8in ZenPad tablets.
Replacing the MeMO Pad series launched at Computex two years ago, the ZenPad family of tablets are aimed at the more fashion conscious among us. They feature Asus' fresh Zen UI user interface design alongside a series of fashion cases and accessories, such as the "ZenClutch" - a pastel coloured leather case aiming to make the tablet more desirable as a fashion accessory.
During its keynote, Asus execs even went as far as to demo just how fashionable they can look by parading the tablets around on stage in a catwalk manner with some gaunt and pasty looking models.
The 8in ZenPad devices come in two variants: a ZenPad 8.0 and a ZenPad S 8.0, the latter being the more powerful of the two, which we got some hands-on time with.
With a 4:3 aspect ratio display, the shape of the ZenPad takes a boxier look than Asus' previous MeMo tablet releases, going head to head with the iPad Mini, which features the same ratio display. While this makes it harder to hold with one hand in portrait mode than a 16:9 tablet, it's much easier to hold with two hands as well as being better for productivity tasks, such as working on word documents.
The ZenPad S 8.0's 298g metallic edging means it also feels much more premium than the previous plastic MeMo series. Its slim design, measuring just 6.6mm thick, also makes it much lighter and thus more portable than the 7.5mm predecessor.
Overall, we were big fans of the updated tablet design by Asus this year. The company has given it a much needed overhaul and made it appear more desirable, being a little different to the standard 16:9 plastic-coated Android tablet that the market seems saturated with at the moment.
The Asus ZenPad S 8.0 features a 2K 2048x1536 resolution IPS display, which looked brilliantly vibrant in our hands-on. This could be thanks to the firm's True2life Plus technology, which it says offers a sharper display for smoother, non-blurry playback of video.
We found that it operated fluidly and appeared bright, too, thanks to the IPS panel, which helped to keep blacks dark: a much welcome addition, which will most likely push up the price.
Performance and OS
Both models of the ZenPad tablet will feature chips based on Intel's latest Silvermont microarchitecture, which is aimed at low-power Atom and Celeron branded processors used in systems on a chip.
While the less powerful ZenPad 8.0 features an Intel Atom x3-C3200 chip running at 1.2GHz and 1GB or 3GB RAM, the ZenPad S 8.0 that we tested is powered by a higher spec 64-bit Intel Moorefield Z3580 running at 2.33GHz alongside 4GB RAM.
In our initial tests, the ZenPad S 8.0 ran smoothly on Android 5.0 Lollipop with no lag, though this will be something we will have to test properly in a full review, as installing all of your favourite apps can slow down Android.
Connectivity, storage and camera
The ZenPad S also has an array of advantages over its weaker sibling, such as a USB Type-C port instead of microUSB for more convenient charging, alongside the better screen and updated design.
There's a 5MP camera on the front and an 8MP one on the back. We had a quick test of these and while nothing out of the ordinary stood out, they seemed to function well with relatively fast shutter speeds.
Furthermore, the S version comes with up to 64GB of storage, as opposed to 32GB on the ZenPad 8.0, with pricing increasing depending on storage choice. Asus didn't unveil the storage options for the ZenPads but we can imagine it will be something along the lines of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB for the S version.
Pricing and availability
In true Asus style, we don't yet know the prices or availability of the tablets, either, not for the UK, nor the US or any other country for that matter. The firm did say during the press conference that it will be the first company to ship with the new Silvermont Intel chips "globally", however.
Asus devices launched at Computex usually take around nine months to come to market in the UK, so if you really want one, we wouldn't advise holding your breath.
10 Jun 2015
Dell announced a series of laptops, desktops and hybrid machines at Computex 2015 this year, including a full line-up of Inspiron models, such as the 5000 and 7000 Series 2-in-1s, Inspiron 15 7000 Series notebooks, and Inspiron 20 & 24 3000 Series AIO desktops.
However, the standout device was the Dell Inspiron 15 7000, a 2-in-1 with a 360-degree hinge akin to the Lenovo Yoga line-up of notebooks, meaning that it can rotate between four modes - tablet, laptop, tent and stand - depending on intended use.
The design and build of the Inspiron 15 7000 is unquestionably high quality. The aluminium finish against a matt charcoal case ensures that it looks the part, which is rather refreshing for a laptop costing $550.
However, it measures just under 20mm at its thickest point so it's not the slimmest 15in laptop on the market. But it's impressively compact considering its flexibility and relatively high-end specifications.
It turns from laptop to stand mode, and over to tent and tablet modes with incredible ease. The whole process is smooth and straightforward as the screen rotates when the different modes are established thanks to the built-in accelerometer.
Overall, it feels strong, looks expensive and feels like it would be a pleasure to use for long periods.
The 15.6in display with a True Color IPS wide-viewing angle screen is full HD at 1920x1080 resolution - what you'd expect of a device of this calibre and in this price range - and we didn't have any real niggles about it.
Brightness levels are good and we can imagine working on it outside, although not in direct sunlight as with most mobile machines.
The Inspiron 15 7000's backlit, full-sized, spill-resistant keyboard has good travel, allowing you to type rapidly with ease.
Unlike some other laptops we've tested recently, there was no problem with the machine registering keystrokes.
However, the well-spaced layout of the keyboard means that it doesn't have a numerical keypad but, apart from accountants, who uses those these days anyway?
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 has three Intel 5th-gen Core Broadwell-U processor options, from the lower performing i3-5005U running at 2GHz, to the i5-5200U running at 2.7GHz and the higest performing i7-5500U running at 3GHz.
These run alongside Intel's integrated HD Graphics 5500, and there's also an optional 8GB Single Channel DDR3L RAM and a 256GB SSD drive for faster storage.
We didn't have long enough with the Inspiron 15 7000 to really put it through its paces, but we did have a good play around on it. It handled Windows 8.1 very well. There was no lag when swiping between pages, and programs popped up almost as soon as we selected them.
It coped easily with most things we threw it at, probably owing to the Intel Broadwell processor. The Inspiron 15 will also be upgradeable to Windows 10 once it's released on 29 July.
An updated version of Intel's 5th-gen Core was released at Computex 2015, and packs in 35 percent more transistors than in Intel's previous 4th-generation Haswell CPU, while shrinking die size by 37 percent.
This allows for super powerful machines with unique form factors, like the Inspiron 15 7000, with lower demands on system power.
Dell said that the inclusion of the Broadwell chip improves the 43WHr, three-cell battery over previous Inspiron models, offering up to nine hours on a single charge.
Prices and availability
The Inspiron 15 7000 Series 2-in-1 will be available from 23 June in the US starting at $549.99 (about £420). As you'd expect from a US company, no UK price or availability has yet been confirmed.
01 May 2015
The LG G4 made its official debut this week, and the company is clearly looking to drag some attention away from the Samsung Galaxy S6.
If the handset's design is anything to go by, it might just manage to do that. The smartphone has a real leather rear (and a plastic version for those not too keen on the idea of cow skin).
The G4 also matches the Galaxy S6 when it comes to display quality with a 5.5in QHD screen, although it falls short in the processor department with a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 chip.
The LG G4 will be made available with a durable leather rear, and LG confirmed on Monday that this will be the real deal.
The Galaxy Note 4-like model, which won't be to everybody's taste, feels impressively luxurious in the hand. It's easy to grip yet soft to touch, and feels like it could withstand a few scrapes.
The LG G4 will also be made available in three 'ceramic' versions, which we later found out are five percent ceramic and 95 percent plastic. The diamond pattern on the rear gives the model a unique (and deceivingly high-end) look, but this version doesn't feel quite so premium or as sturdy.
LG has yet to reveal pricing details, although retailer Unlocked Mobiles claims the plastic model will be £30 cheaper than its leather-clad sibling.
The LG G4 measures 9.9mm thick, 1mm thicker than last year's LG G3. It does feel fairly large in the hand, but it doesn't feel quite as awkward to hold as the Nexus 6, for example. This is largely thanks to its "natural arc", which means that the handset is slightly curved so that it sits more neatly in the palm of the hand.
Much like the LG G3, the G4 comes with its physical keys stuck to the rear, which we found quite difficult to reach given the large size of the handset.
The LG G4 features the same screen as its predecessor, a 5.5in 2560x1440 QHD offering with a pixel density of 538ppi. However, LG said that it's the first to use a Quantum IPS display, which should provide better colour accuracy and outdoor visibility.
LG's claims rang true during our hands-on time with the handset. The G4's display made the one on our iPhone 6, for example, look somewhat lacking by comparison, offering punchier colours, impressive contrast levels and excellent viewing angles.
The display also proved much easier to read in bright sunlight, which can't be said for the Galaxy S6.
Just as speculation had suggested ahead of its unveiling, the LG G4 doesn't pack Qualcomm's highest-spec Snapdragon 810 processor, and instead opts for the hexa-core Snapdragon 808 chip.
This is backed by 3GB RAM, and equips the handset with support for LTE-A 4G speeds of up to 450Mbps.
The use of a Snapdragon 808 chip might disappoint some, but we noticed no problems with performance during our time with the LG G4. It felt just as nippy as the likes of the Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9, and we struggled to slow it down no matter how much we threw at it.
LG claims that the Snapdragon 808 chip should make for better power efficiency too, and the 3,000mAh battery is quoted as offering 14 hours of talk time. We've yet to put this fully to the test, but will do so in our full review.
LG's UX 4.0 interface debuts on the LG G4, which sits on top of the smartphone's Android 5.1 Lollipop software. The firm claims to have made things simpler with its latest custom skin. It's largely similar to the UI on the LG G3, but does feel a little more stripped back and minimalistic.
Despite the handset's more basic UI, LG has stuffed the G4 full of additional features, such as Smart Notice and Smart Stay, both found on last year's model.
There are a few new additions, though. A Gallery app, for example, looks eerily similar to the Photos app that debuted in iOS 8, and a feature called Event Pocket allows you to to drag and drop items like photos into the calendar.
New photography tools have also been added in LG UX 4.0, including a set of manual camera settings. There's also a feature called Quick Shot that means you can double tap the volume down button twice to take a photo, even when the screen is switched off. Again, given the placement of the button, we found this quite tricky to do one handed.
LG has also mentioned its collaborative efforts with Google, which has seen a number of the search company's apps pre-loaded on the LG G4, along with the added bonus of 100GB Google Drive storage for two years.
LG claims that the G4's camera credentials make it the most advanced smartphone camera available.
The LG G4 packs a 16MP f/1.8 camera with laser autofocus, Optical Image Stabilisation and a 40 percent larger sensor than that found on the LG G3. There's also a 'colour spectrum sensor', which the firm claims will make images look more natural and balanced.
These are some pretty big claims from LG and we've yet to put the camera fully through its paces. On first impressions, however, it's extremely impressive, snapping images quicker than rival devices, and offering images full of colour and detail.
The LG G4 is also capable of shooting in JPEG and RAW, and LG claims that the handset could replace a dedicated camera.
If any Android smartphone has what it takes to give the Galaxy S6 a run for its money, it's the LG G4.
We'll reserve judgement until we give it the full review treatment, but the high-quality screen and impressive camera should have Samsung worried.
Huawei has been working hard to shake off its reputation as a mid- to low-tier player in the smartphone market for quite some time via its design focused P series of devices.
Unveiled in London on Wednesday the Huawei P8 continues this effort and comes with custom hardware that the firm claims will outperform key competing handsets, including the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6.
Huawei made a big deal about the P8's single-piece metal unibody chassis, claiming that it has been stripped of all superfluous design features.
We picked up the white version of the P8 and we have to say we were fairly impressed. The metal unibody makes it seem like Huawei has once again borrowed design elements from Apple, but the P8 feels fairly original in the hand.
The P8 has flatter sides than the iPhone 6 and a textured, as opposed to smooth, finish, giving it a distinct feel that is fairly comfortable to hold. The P8's ergonomic feel is aided by its tiny 6.8mm thickness.
Huawei has also managed to cram a decent selection of inputs into the P8, equipping it with the same dual SIM and microSD set up as its predecessor, the P7.
Huawei has loaded the P8 with a 5.2in FHD, 1080p, 1920x1080, 424ppi screen. This puts it behind handsets such as the Galaxy S6 and LG G3 when it comes to pixel per inch density, but we didn't notice any serious problems during our hands-on.
Brightness levels were good, icons and text were crisp and viewing angles were fairly wide. Colour balance levels were also reasonably good and, thanks to the P8's colour temperature tool, can be adjusted to personal taste.
The P8 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop overlaid with Huawei's Emotion UI. We've never been fans of Emotion, feeling it makes a number of superfluous or outright negative changes to Android.
Key offences include flooding the OS with unremovable bloatware and removing Android's app tray so that all installed apps appear on the home screens, as they do in iOS. Sadly, we found that many of these complaints remained when testing the P8 during our hands-on.
The P8 is powered by an octa-core, 64bit, 2GHz, Hisilicon Kirin 930 processor and 3GB of RAM.
We didn't get a chance to benchmark the P8 during our hands-on, but our initial test yielded positive results and the P8 was smooth to use and opened apps and web pages in milliseconds.
Huawei made a lot of bold claims about the P8's 13MP rear camera during the launch, saying that the firm has improved the camera's low light and high contrast performance by adding Optical Imaging Stabilisation (OIS), "the world's first" four-colour 13MP RGBW mobile imaging sensor and an independent digital SLR-level imaging processor.
Huawei claims that the OIS used has a 1.2 degree shake compensator and will outperform the 0.6 degree compensator used in the iPhone 6 Plus.
The four-colour sensor reportedly offers 32 percent better brightness than most smartphones' three-colour sensors and can reduce noise by up to 78 percent when shooting in low light.
The digital SLR-level imaging processor further reduces low light noise, while high contrast optimisation features improve white and colour balance levels.
Testing the rear camera by snapping a few photos around the Huawei launch event showroom floor we found the results fairly impressive and noticeably better than those taken on most handsets at the P8's sub-£500 price point.
Battery and storage
The P8 is powered by a 2680mAh battery which Huawei claims will last at least a day with "very heavy use".
Huawei has also made it easier to extend the P8's battery life with a custom battery manager. This lets users see and manage which applications are using power at any given time.
Huawei is offering the P8 with 16GB or 64GB of internal storage. A further 128GB can be added via the handset's microSD card slot.
The P8 may not have generated the same media buzz as the phones it aims to dethrone but, from what we've seen so far, the P8 is fairly impressive from a hardware and design perspective.
Our only concerns relate to the Emotion UI software which, from what we've seen, is still making detrimental changes to Android.
The Huawei P8 will launch in the UK at an unspecified point later this year with SIM-free prices starting at €499.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Huawei P8.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
19 Mar 2015
Canonical has been talking about its mobile plans for quite some time, promising that it will one day create a truly all-encompassing ecosystem that bridges the gap between mobile and desktop systems.
To date, however, we've seen only glimmers of hope that this will actually happen with Ubuntu. Other competing tech companies, like Microsoft with its recently unveiled Windows 10 OS, have begun gaining ground in efforts to create a converged ecosystem.
Fortunately we had our interest in Canonical's open-source Ubuntu Mobile operating system reignited at MWC 2015, as we finally got to see the platform in its full glory running on the Meizu MX4 smartphone.
Design and build
The MX4 is a very slick looking smartphone with an aluminium alloy body and matte back cover that makes it look and feel like a top-end smartphone. This fact is helped by small design touches, like reducing the screen bezel to a minuscule 2.6mm.
The MX4 felt well built in the hand and left us reasonably sure that it could survive the average wear and tear expected of a smartphone. The 5.4in handset is also reasonably ergonomic and never felt unwieldy to use.
The one oddity we noticed is that the MX4 has a capacitive front button at its bottom edge. Considering Ubuntu Mobile's 'pure touch' focus, the inclusion of the button is slightly odd and during our hands-on didn't appear to have been assigned a function, Although a spokesman at the stand told us that this would "probably" be sorted out come the full release.
The MX4 has an impressive 5.4in 1920x1142, 418ppi display. Using the MX4 on the insanely bright showroom floor we found that colour balance and vibrancy levels were excellent, viewing angles were wide and icons were wonderfully sharp.
The MX4's high maximum brightness meant that the handset remained usable even in direct bright light, although like all smartphones it did become slightly reflective in this situation.
The MX4's use of Canonical's Ubuntu Mobile operating system is its most interesting feature. The version running on the MX4 is similar to the one we saw at MWC 2014, but has had a number of fixes and upgrades to improve stability and performance.
We were impressed with Canonical's work, and the handset didn't crash or stall once during our 40 minutes of testing. Last year we had to reboot the Nexus 4 running Ubuntu Mobile twice during our hands-on.
Ubuntu Mobile is entirely touch and gesture based. Accessing new features is done by scrolling up, down, left or right from a specific point on the screen's bezel.
For example, a short scroll from the left bezel brings out the Ubuntu Unity Application launcher - a menu similar to the one seen on Samsung's TouchWiz Android skin - while a short scroll right brings up the last open application.
A longer scroll right brings up a new window showing all open applications on the phone.
The home screen is also radically different to most other mobile operating systems'. Ubuntu Mobile doesn't have multiple menu windows and is managed directly from the home screen.
The home screen is separated into panelled sections for things like recently used apps, contacts, music, video and messages. The order of the panels can be customised to suit the user's wishes.
This means that the home screen can be set up to push data and alerts from applications like Facebook, Twitter, email and news outlets.
This is a big selling point and, if implemented well, could greatly improve the way we consume information on mobile devices and remove the need to jump from application to application when opening and responding to alerts.
Additionally, as a spokesman explained, companies can port apps to the Ubuntu Mobile thanks to its open Linux nature.
The MX4 is powered by an octa-core Media Tek 2.2GHz processor, PowerVR G6200 GPU and 2GB RAM. We didn't get a chance to benchmark the MX4 or see how it handled demanding tasks, like 3D gaming.
However, the MX4's performance was impressive when handling everyday tasks. The handset moved smoothly between menu screens, launched apps in milliseconds and felt suitably responsive.
The MX4 comes with a sizeable 20.7MP rear camera with a Sony IMX220 Exmor RS sensor and a 2MP front camera.
This Sony sensor is a positive addition that makes images sharper by removing noise and gives the camera a higher than average maximum ISO sensitivity. The MX4 is also listed as having an impressive 0.3 second shutter speed.
We were impressed after taking a few photos in the camera's automatic mode. Shutter speeds were good and photos were crisp with decent colour balance, contrast and white balance levels.
Battery and storage
We didn't get a chance to battery burn the 3,100mAh Li-Po battery during our hands-on.
However Meizu claims it will offer "above average" life and around nine hours of video playback, which if true is fairly impressive.
During our battery burns we find most phones in its size bracket struggle to offer more than seven to eight hours of video playback off one charge.
The MX4 will be offered with 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of internal storage.
Price release date and conclusion
The Ubuntu MX4 is yet to receive an official price or release date, but our opening impressions of it are very positive.
Featuring a premium design, innovative operating system, and decent internal specifications the MX4 looks like a great smartphone.
We also have to praise Canonical for the great work it's done over the past year to improve Ubuntu mobile's stability and performance, and can't wait to test the OS more thoroughly.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the MX4 Ubuntu phone.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
15 Mar 2015
HTC has been gunning for Samsung's spot as the top Android smartphone vendor for the past few years.
Design and build
Galaxy S6: 143x71x6.8mm, 138g
One M9: 145x70x9.6mm, 157g
Samsung completely redesigned the Galaxy S6, giving it a mixed metal and Gorilla Glass chassis that makes it a claimed 50 percent tougher than competing metal handsets.
HTC chose not to radically rethink the One M9's design and instead merged what it claims are the best elements of the 2013 One and 2014 One M8 devices.
Being fully metal, however, means that the One M9 is 3mm fatter and 19g heavier than the Galaxy S6.
Galaxy S6: 5.1in, 2560x1440, 577ppi, Super Amoled
One M9: 5in, 1920x1080, 441ppi, Super LCD3
Samsung made a big song and dance about the Galaxy S6's screen, claiming that it can display 70 percent more pixels than the Galaxy S5.
This is interesting, but we've struggled to notice the difference in sharpness between displays once they break the 400ppi threshold.
For us it will come down to the battle between the Galaxy S6 and One M9's competing Super Amoled and Super LCD3 technologies.
Galaxy S6: Android 5.0 Lollipop with TouchWiz UI
One M9: Android 5.0 Lollipop with Sense UI
The Galaxy S6 and One M9 both come with customised versions of Google's latest Android 5.0 operating system. The Galaxy S6 adds Samsung's TouchWiz skin, while the One M9 adds HTC's Sense skin.
TouchWiz improves the Galaxy S6's business appeal with the addition of Knox and Samsung Pay. Knox is a security feature that lets companies create and manage a separate, password-protected and encrypted area on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. Samsung Pay is a contactless payment service based on NFC and MST.
HTC Sense, meanwhile, makes Android more intuitive to use via the inclusion of Sense Home. This adjusts the applications and services that appear on the home screen depending on the user's location. For example, when in the office it will push work applications, like email and calendar, to the front of the UI.
During our hands on we found the One M9's interface was noticeably more customised than HTC's previous One M8, a factor that could put some Android buyers.
Galaxy S6: Octa-core Exynos 7420
One M9: Quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
We haven't had a chance to benchmark the Galaxy S6's "one of a kind" octa-core Exynos 7420, so can't comment on how it compares with the HTC One M9's Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip with 100 percent certainty just yet.
However, during our initial tests with both devices we were very impressed with both the Galaxy S6 and One M9's performance.
Powered by a 64-bit chip that is optimised for Android 5.0, the One M9 felt lightening fast and was noticeably smoother to use than HTC's 2014 One M8.
However, we were equally impressed with the Galaxy S6, which felt like one of the speediest handsets we've ever used.
Galaxy S6: 16MP rear, 5MP front
One M9: 20.7MP rear, 4MP Ultrapixel front
We were never big believers in HTC's Ultrapixel technology, which improves shutter speeds and low light performance by increasing the size of pixels captured by the sensor.
As a result we're glad to see that HTC has pushed it to the front of the One M9 and added a higher megapixel 20.7MP camera on the back.
However, as any photographer will tell you, picture quality is not necessarily determined by megapixel count. Loaded with a custom F-1.9 lens that Samsung claims lets in 60 percent more light than the Galaxy S5's lens, the Galaxy S6 may well outperform the HTC One M9 when it comes to low light performance.
Galaxy S6: Non-removable Li-Ion 2550mAh
One M9: Non-removable Li-Po 2840mAh
The One M9 has a larger battery than the Galaxy S6. However, Samsung has loaded the Galaxy S6 with a few custom charging technologies that have the potential to improve its usability.
This includes fast charge technology that Samsung claims can "charge four hours' worth of life in 10 minutes" and WPC and PMA wireless charging technology.
Storage and memory
Galaxy S6: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 3GB RAM
One M9: 32GB, microSD up to 128GB, 3GB RAM
Samsung is offering the Galaxy S6 with more internal storage options, although the One M9 is the only one of the two that can have its storage upgraded thanks to the microSD card slot.
Galaxy S6: Undisclosed
One M9: £580
The HTC One M9 is available to pre-order on the HTC website, priced at £580 SIM free. Samsung is yet to disclose the Galaxy S6 price. However Unlocked Mobiles is listing the 32GB Galaxy S6 with a £550 SIM-free price tag, indicating it may be cheaper than the One M9.
From a hardware perspective the HTC One M9 and Galaxy S6 are both top end smartphones.
However, of the two the Galaxy S6 on paper has a few differentiating factors that could attract users away from the One M9, which appears to be a refresh, rather than redesign of HTC's 2014 offering.
Key factors differentiating the Galaxy S6 include a "one of a kind" octa-core processor, updated Knox security, Samsung Pay service and super high-resolution Super Amoled display.
Check back with V3 later for full reviews of the HTC One M9 and Samsung Galaxy S6.
13 Mar 2015
Samsung has been working hard to prove that it's still an innovator in the smartphone market ever since its 2014 effort failed to meet most analysts', and the firm's own, sales projections.
Samsung gained some ground in 2014 thanks to the Galaxy Note Edge, which generated attention at IFA for its use of a curved screen that wrapped around its right-hand side.
The company attempted a repeat performance at MWC, launching the Galaxy S6 Edge alongside the Galaxy S6.
Design and build
Galaxy S6: 143x71x6.8mm, 138g
Galaxy S6 Edge: 142x70x7mm, 132g
The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge share the same design philosophy and both feature a metal chassis and Gorilla Glass back. This combination makes both handsets feel like hybrids of the Sony Xperia Z3 and iPhone 6.
The only noticeable difference between the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge is that the latter is slightly fatter at 7mm, and has twin Super Amoled Edge Screens like those on the Galaxy Note Edge wrapped around its left and right sides.
The Edge Screens reduce the amount of metal used on the Galaxy S6 Edge and make it a full 6g lighter than its chunkier Galaxy S6 sibling.
Both phones come with fingerprint scanners and wireless charging capabilities.
Galaxy S6: 5.1in, 2560x1440, 577ppi, Super Amoled
Galaxy S6 Edge: 5.1in, 2560x1440, 577ppi, Super Amoled with add-on 'Edge Screens'
The two Samsung handsets have identical main screens, which Samsung claims display 70 percent more pixels than the Galaxy S5 and are the sharpest ever seen on a smartphone.
The Galaxy S6 Edge's side screens offer extra functionality and can be set to offer shortcuts for applications or custom widgets that push information to the user on features like weather or incoming message alerts.
Galaxy S6: Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with TouchWiz UI
Galaxy S6 Edge: Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with TouchWiz UI
The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge come with Google's latest Android 5.0 Lollipop software overlaid with Samsung's TouchWiz skin.
We've not been fans of TouchWiz as it tends to flood the operating system with bloatware and makes needless changes to Android's user interface.
However, Samsung has reduced the number of changes to Android with the newest TouchWiz version and all the additions are positive. Key TouchWiz features include Knox, Samsung Pay and a reworked camera application.
Knox is a security solution that lets companies create and manage separate, password-protected and encrypted areas on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.
Samsung Pay is a contactless payment service based on near-field communication and magnetic secure transmission. The camera app features a 'Pro' mode that offers manual control over settings like ISO and white balance.
Galaxy S6: Octa-core Exynos 7420
Galaxy S6 Edge: Octa-core Exynos 7420
Samsung has loaded both handsets with its latest "one of a kind" octa-core Exynos 7420 chip. We haven't had a chance to benchmark the chip on either device, so we can't concretely comment on performance yet.
However, during our initial tests at MWC of both the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge we were impressed with the two handsets' performance. Both smartphones felt reactive and a fraction of a second faster than Samsung's previous generation smartphones.
We'll be excited to see how the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge perform with more thorough testing come our full review.
Galaxy S6: 16MP, F-1.9 with Real Time HDR and Optical Image Stabilisation rear; 5MP, F-1.9 Real Time HDR front
Galaxy S6 Edge: 16MP, F-1.9 with Real Time HDR and Optical Image Stabilisation rear; 5MP, F-1.9 Real Time HDR front
Samsung has worked hard to improve its smartphone camera technology over the past year, and it seems to have paid off.
Samsung claims that the F-1.9 lens lets in 60 percent more light than the Galaxy S5's lens and will radically improve low light performance.
The Real Time HDR shoots several images and combines them to create a more consistent and accurate photo.
Galaxy S6: Non-removable Li-Ion 2550mAh battery
Galaxy S6 Edge: Non-removable Li-Ion 2600mAh
The Galaxy S6 Edge features a larger battery, but it's unclear how much the curved-screen set-up will affect its life. We'll test this during our full review.
Storage and memory
Galaxy S6: 32GB, 64GB or 128GB, 3GB RAM
Galaxy S6 Edge: 32GB, 64GB or 128GB, 3GB RAM
Both handsets have identical internal storage options and memory, with no microSD card.
Galaxy S6: Undisclosed
Galaxy S6 Edge: Undisclosed
Samsung is yet to reveal prices for the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. However some retailers have begun guessing.
Unlocked Mobiles hasn't yet started taking pre-orders, but is currently listing the 32GB Galaxy S6 with a £549.98 SIM-free price tag. It's listing the 32GB Galaxy S6 Edge with a more premium £649.98 SIM-free price.
Outside of the inclusion of curved "Edge Screens" and slightly larger battery, the Galaxy S6 Edge and Galaxy S6 are close to identical.
This is no bad thing as both handsets are set to feature a wealth of top end and useful features. These include wireless charging support, Samsung Pay and Knox, a "one of a kind" octa-core processor and a completely reworked rear camera.
The big question is whether the Edge displays upgraded productivity services will be enough to justify the Galaxy S6 Edge's increased cost.
Check back with V3 later for in depth reviews of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge.