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Samsung Gear 2 hands-on review

14 Mar 2014

Samsung unveiled the Gear 2 and the cheaper Gear 2 Neo ahead of Mobile World Congress (MWC) last month, the sequels to its original Galaxy Gear smartwatch that struggled to impress us due to its poor battery life and bulky design.

Samsung is hoping to have fixed those issues with the Gear 2, with the firm having tarted up the wearable's design, added some new features and, perhaps most interestingly, switched out Android for its own Tizen operating system.

Design
Samsung claims the design of the Gear 2 is "much sleeker" than that of the original Galaxy Gear smartwatch, but we didn't notice a major difference in size and weight. Maybe we just have weak wrists, but we found that, much like the original Galaxy Gear, the Gear 2 still felt cumbersome and bulky to wear. The Gear 2 tips the scales at 68g compared to the original Gear's 74g.

Samsung Gear 2 camera

That said, the Gear 2 does looks better than its predecessor. Thanks to Samsung's decision to move the camera sensor from the strap to above the display, the Gear 2 feels more streamlined than last year's model, and the redesigned strap, which is a textured rubber material, both looks good and sits comfortably on the wrist. Straps will be available in a range of colours, from a muted black version to bright orange. Samsung has redesigned the clasp too, which makes it easier to take the device on and off.

Thankfully, the unsightly screws from the original Gear have been removed too, which means that the device doesn't look quite as masculine as Samsung's original smartwatch. Instead, the metal watch face sports a new home button under the screen, which we found makes the device more intuitive to use.

Another nice design feature is that, much like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Gear 2 is resistant to dust and water, which means you won't need to take it off while in the shower. Also like the Galaxy S5, there's a heart rate monitor built into the rear of the device, with the smartwatch shifting to focus on fitness.

Display
The Gear 2 has the same 1.6in 320x320 resolution Amoled display as its predecessor, which isn't a bad thing, as the display was one of the main things that impressed us when we reviewed the original Galaxy Gear. Thanks to the onboard Amoled technology and the small size of the display, it's quite crisp and vibrant, with colours seeming to pop out of the screen.

We found the display very responsive to touch, and noticed no lag while using the device.

Software
The Samsung Gear 2 dumps Google's Android mobile operating system in favour of Samsung's own Linux-based Tizen operating system developed in collaboration with Intel. Despite this however, Samsung has said that the device will still need to hook up to one of 20 supported Galaxy phones in order to function, a 'feature' we'd hoped that Samsung would have resolved with its second generation smartwatch.

Samsung Gear 2 runs Tizen and features fitness apps

Beyond that, however, Tizen looks great on the device, with Samsung providing it with a colourful, easy to navigate user interface. While the app selection is still somewhat limited, Tizen's conformance to HTML5 means that it should be quick and easy to write apps for it, and that shouldn't drain battery life too quickly, with Samsung promising "two to three" days.

In terms of applications, the Gear 2 has a focus on fitness, and you'll find a built-in pedometer and exercise tracker along with the heart rate monitor. There's also a music player - the only app that can be used without a smartphone connected - and S Voice, IR Blaster and Camera apps.

Camera
Speaking of camera, the Samsung Gear 2 sports a 2MP camera that now sits above the smartwatch's display rather than on the wriststrap. However, we still don't really see the need for this. Its image quality is poor, it's fiddly to use and the camera interface is tricky to manipulate given the small screen size of the Gear 2. What's more, the device needs to be hooked up to a smartphone - a smartphone that likely will have a more capable camera.

First impressions
The Samsung Gear 2 is without a doubt a big improvement on the original Galaxy Gear. While still somewhat bulky, it's much sleeker than the previous model, it has a more impressive set of features and, if Samsung's claims are to be believed, its battery will last longer than one day.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet hands-on review

13 Mar 2014

The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet was unveiled at Mobile World Congress (MWC) last month, claiming to be the "world's smallest and lightest" waterproof tablet, measuring just 6.4mm thick, more than a millimetre thinner than the Apple iPad Air.

Sony launches the Xperia Z2 Tablet at MWC

We couldn't wait to get our hands on Sony's latest flagship tablet to find out if its claims are true. Here are our thoughts from the show floor.

Design
Visually the Xperia Z2 Tablet looks like a larger version of the Xperia Z2 smartphone, featuring a similar boxy design based on Sony Omnibalance, which apparently refers to a design philosophy that aims to ensure that the tablet has a consistent appearance at whatever angle it's viewed from.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Android tablet hands-on - display

As far as we could tell, that seemed to be true. And as with the Xperia Z2, we're fans of the boxy look. Even better, with this release Sony has rounded the edges more than on its predecessor, the Xperia Tablet Z, making it easier to hold than older model, but still not as nice as the iPad Air.

Slimmer still at 6.4mm thick compared to its 6.9mm older brother, the Xperia Z2 Tablet feels just as thin as it sounds and we enjoyed using and holding a tablet with such a brilliant screen in such a slim form.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet hands-on MWC - thickness

Weighing just 426g, the Android 4.4 Kitkat powered Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet also weighs less than the 469g iPad Air and it really shows, as you can easily hold it in one hand without any strain. We can imagine that the tablet will drop nicely into a bag or satchel, too, and not make much difference to the overall weight, making it great for travelling.

One thing worth noting, however, is that the 10.1in tablet doesn't look as high-end as its predecessor, probably due to the soft touch back. This does make it easier to grip, though.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet hands-on MWC

Perhaps the Xperia Z2 Tablet's best feature is its tough build quality. For starters, it is IP55 and IP58 certified, meaning it is dust and even water resistant. While we haven't had a chance to test just how robust it really is, if Sony's tablet is as tough as its counterparts, it could be an ideal choice for users looking for a tablet that they can use on the go without too much fear of damage.

Display
As with Sony's other recent flagship devices, the Xperia Z2 Tablet's 10.1in display features Sony's full HD Triluminos screen technology along with the firm's new "Live Colour LED" technology, which it claims makes colours appear more rich and natural.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet hands-on MWC - screen

During our hands-on we found the tablet's display was superb when viewed directly, with the LED technology making a noticeable difference over its predecessor. However, as with the Xperia tablet Z, the Xperia Z2 Tablet did appear to have some glare issues. Using the Tablet Z2 in the brightly lit Sony showroom we found that it was slightly prone to catching glare from bright lights.

LG G2 Mini hands-on review

12 Mar 2014

LG announced the LG G2 Mini ahead of last month's Mobile World Congress (MWC), and took to the show floor in Barcelona to show off the miniature version of its flagship device.

We say 'miniature' version, but the LG G2 Mini is actually one of the larger Mini devices with a 4.7in screen that dwarfs the 4in screen of the iPhone 5S and is larger than the 4.3in screen of Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact.

Still, LG is no doubt hoping that the smaller screen will attract those who aren't fond of the flagship LG G2's 5.2in display, and we took a hands-on look at the device to see how it stacks up.

Design
As we mentioned, the LG G2 Mini isn't in fact very small. The handset measures 130x66x9.8mm, and while that isn't large, we're not sure that it warrants the Mini designation.

Still, the LG G2 Mini is comfortable to hold, with is slight curve sitting well in the palm of the hand. We're not keen on the handset's textured plastic back panel, though, which both looks and feels a little cheap, especially compared to the iPhone 5S and Xperia Z1 Compact.

One design feature we do like, however, are the hardware keys on the rear of the phone, just like those on the flagship LG G2.

LG G2 Mini has physical buttons on its rear

These volume control and standby keys are placed much more comfortably than those on the 5.2in model, with the keys placed in a natural position, which meant they felt much more useable than the physical keys that usually are situated around the edges of smartphones.

Another nice design touch is the slim bezel surrounding the screen, which makes the display seem even larger than it is and avoids adding unncessary bulk to the handset.

Display
The LG G2 Mini has a 4.7in 540x950 resolution IPS display that isn't among the sharpest we've seen on the MWC show floor and pales compared to the flagship LG G2's full HD 1080p display.

LG G2 Mini has a 4.7in screen

That said, the display is exceptionally bright and presents good viewing angles, so the slight fuzziness surrounding text and icons shouldn't be too much of an issue for buyers.

Performance and software
Under the bonnet, the LG G2 Mini has a dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapragon 400 procesor, a downgrade from the quad-core 2.26GHz Snapdragon 800 processor found in its flagship predecessor.

While it sounds like a downgrade, we didn't notice a lack of performance during our hands-on time with the device.

LG G2 Mini runs Android 4.4 Kitkat

This is likely due to the handset's largely vanilla Android 4.4 Kitkat mobile operating system. We never were fans of LG's custom Android skin, but the firm has recently toned this down greatly, with the handset arriving without any obtrusive widgets covering its homescreens. However, LG has redesigned the handset's lockscreen, which boasts its Knock Code unlocking features, and has redesigned the application icons, but given the largely customisable nature of the handset, we didn't find these changes obtrusive.

Camera
An 8MP rear-facing camera sits on the rear of the LG G2 Mini. During our hands-on time with the phone, we were impressed by the rear-facing sensor, which produced colourful, detailed images, even under the bright lights of the MWC show floor.

LG G2 Mini has an 8MP rear facing camera

The rear camera was quick too, compared to the cameras often found on other mid-range Android smartphones.

First impressions
The LG G2 Mini doesn't sound like much on paper, and it certainly doesn't seem like a 'mini' handset. However, we were impressed with the device during our hands-on time with it at MWC, thanks to its nearly untouched Android 4.4 Kitkat mobile operating system, snappy 8MP camera and all-round smooth performance. We also liked the rear-facing physical keys on the device, which felt more natural to use than the keys on the original LG G2.

HP Slate Voicetab 6 hands-on review

11 Mar 2014

PC maker HP unveiled the Slate Voicetab 6 earlier this year, and at last month's Mobile World Congress (MWC) the firm announced that it will release the device in the UK.

HP is touting the Slate Voicetab 6 as a "voice-enabled" tablet to market the device to those looking for more than a smartphone. However, during our time with the device, it became clear that the Slate Voicetab 6 is really a phablet, offering little more than the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z Ultra, for example.

However, with a price set at £199, the HP Slate Voicetab 6 is much cheaper than the competition, so we spent a little hands-on time with the device to see how it stacks up against its rivals.

Design
The design of the HP Slate Voicetab 6 certainly stands out from the crowd, with HP making the device available in six different colours - pink, purple, green, blue, white and grey. We got our hands on the bright pink model, which although unlikely to appeal to many, will definitely get heads turning.

HP Slate Voicetab 6 in pink

Despite HP marketing the device as a tablet, the Slate Voicetab 6 isn't bulky, measuring 8.6mm thick and weighing 160g. While we did struggle to operate the device comfortably with one hand, the Slate Voicetab 6 is a pleasant device to use and is much lighter than similarly sized devices such as the Nokia Lumia 1320.

The HP Slate Voicetab 6 does feel a little cheap, however, which is perhaps not surprising when its price is considered. It is built predominantly out of plastic with metal trim around the edges, and it feels like it might not withstand many accidental drops and tumbles.

Screen
The HP Slate Voicetab 6 features a 6in 720x1280 resolution IPS display, and we were pleasantly surprised by its quality. When compared to the HD 1080p screen on the HTC One Max, for example, it's clear that text isn't quite as sharp and images are slightly less crisp. However, we have no major complaints. The IPS technology means it offers wide viewing angles, and the handset also coped well under the bright lights of MWC.

Performance and software
Under the hood, the HP Slate Voicetab 6 has a quad-core 1.2GHz processor, and while this means it's not the highest specification phablet on the market, we were impressed by its overall performance. We opened a game on the device, and gameplay was smooth without any stuttering, while flicking through menus and opening apps was also smooth.

HP Slate Voicetab 6

We were slightly let down by the fact that the Slate Voicetab 6 runs Google's Android 4.3 Jelly Bean mobile operating system, with HP unable to commit to an update to Android 4.4 Kitkat. However, HP has barely put its mark on Google's mobile operating system, which means that the device offers a thoroughly vanilla Android experience, without a custom skin or a lot of unnecessary apps.

HP has added a few of its own apps, though. These include HP Connected Photo, which allows users to sync photos to the cloud, HP's WiFi printer service and HP Datapass - a bonus that offers 250MB of free 3G every month.

Cameras
The HP Slate Voicetab 6 features an HD webcam on the front, along with a 5MP rear-facing camera with autofocus and LED flash.

We gave the camera a quick spin at MWC, and we weren't overly impressed. With HP defining the device as a tablet, it seems to have cut back on the camera, no doubt to keep the price of the device low. We found it lacking when compared to the competition, struggling to handle the bright lights of the showroom and taking images that were often fuzzy and lacking in detail.

First impressions
While its camera is somewhat lacking, the Slate Voicetab 6 delivers smooth performance, a good screen and a largely vanilla Android user interface. There's also 16GB of internal storage expandable via microSD card, support for HSDPA and WiFi connectivity and a 3,000mAh battery, which we'll be sure to test in our full review.

All in all, the HP Slate Voicetab 6 is somewhat of a confused device, but we think that at £199 it could help HP re-enter the mobile device market.

Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S spec by spec

11 Mar 2014

Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S5 flagship smartphone at Mobile World Congress (MWC) last month, and it's no doubt hoping its specifications will tempt buyers away from Apple's iPhone 5S.

While the two smartphones have similar names, they have different hardware and software, and are both looking to win the affections of punters in the market for a top-end smartphone.

We have lined up the two smartphones head to head on paper to find out which one comes out top in terms of specifications.

s5-vs-5sDesign, measurements and weight
iPhone 5S: 124x59x7.6mm, 112g
Samsung Galaxy S5: 142x73x8.1mm, 145g 

With the Apple iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S5 having 4in and 5.1in screens, respectively, it's clear which one is going to attract buyers after a compact, pocketable smartphone.

The iPhone 5S is both thinner and lighter than Samsung's Galaxy S5, measuring 7.6mm thick and tipping the scales at 112g. The Galaxy S5, in comparison, measures a slightly chunkier 8.1mm thick and weighs 145g.

The smartphones are very different when it comes to design, too, and it's likely that most buyers will have their favourite. The iPhone 5S is made entirely of aluminium, giving it a top-end look and feel, and it features an angular, boxy design. It's also available in three colours - black, white and gold.

Apple iPhone 5S in space grey gold and silver

The Samsung Galaxy S5, on the other hand, has a fully plastic casing, which Samsung has perforated on the back to make the device comfortable to hold. The flagship smartphone is available in four colours - black, white, blue and gold.

Interestingly, both devices feature a fingerprint sensor in their respective home buttons, and are the first two smartphones that do. This adds a layer of security to both the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S5, and makes the devices quicker to unlock.

While they both feature a fingerprint scanner, the Samsung Galaxy S5 trumps the iPhone 5S with its IP67 certification, which means that unlike Apple's flagship smartphone, it is resistant to dust and waterproof. The Galaxy S5 also has a heart rate monitor on the back, a feature that likely will interest fitness fanatics.

Screen
iPhone 5S: 4in 640x1136 resolution IPS LCD Retina display, 326ppi
Samsung Galaxy S5: 5.1in 1920x1080 resolution Super Amoled display, 432ppi

The iPhone 5S features a display that's identical to that of its predecessor, the iPhone 5, and this was long regarded as the best screen you could get on a smartphone. Measuring 4in, the display features 640x1136 resolution and a pixel density of 326ppi, and thanks to its IPS technology it is among the best when it comes to viewing angles. However, with smartphone screens becoming larger all the time, some might consider the display too small.

Those that do might be pleased by the display on the Samsung Galaxy S5 - a 5.1in 1920x1080 resolution Super Amoled screen with a higher pixel density of 432ppi.

Performance
iPhone 5S: Dual-core 1.4GHz Apple A7 64-bit processor with M7 co-processor, 1GB of RAM
Samsung Galaxy S5: Quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 32-bit processor, 2GB of RAM

While we have yet to pit them head to head in performance benchmarks, it's likely that the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S5 will be fairly evenly matched in processing power. The iPhone 5S has an Apple A7 64-bit processor with an M7 co-processor that can tell if the phone is moving or not, to offer more accurate readings when using features such as Maps or gaming.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 has a quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 32-bit processor, which will likely give Apple's A7 chip a run for its money. What's more, the Galaxy S5 has 2GB of RAM, compared to 1GB in the iPhone 5S.

Operating system
iPhone 5S: iOS 7
Samsung Galaxy S5: Android 4.4 Kitkat, custom user interface

It's always tricky comparing iOS to Android, because most buyers in the market for a smartphone likely already know which is their favourite.

Samsung Galaxy S5 with Android 4.4 Kitkat in gold

The iPhone 5S arrives running the latest version of Apple's iOS 7 mobile operating system. This debuted along with the flagship smartphone, offering a new, texture-free interface design, which although it was heavily criticised gives iOS a fresh look and feel. iOS 7 debuted a number of new features, including Control Center, which is a menu for toggling settings such as WiFi and Bluetooth, a redesigned Camera application and Airdrop.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 runs Google's Android 4.4.2 Kitkat operating system, although this is barely recognisable due to Samsung's custom user interface (UI) overlay. Apple must be doing something right, as Samsung has revamped its UI to look more like Apple's latest version of iOS, with the firm opting for flatter, smoother designs.

Samsung's updated UI also debuts a number of new features. Cheif among these is S Health 3.0, an app for tracking fitness and exercise. There's also My Magazine, an HTC Blinkfeed-style homescreen accessed by swiping left on the main homescreen, an updated version of Samsung's Knox security suite and some updated camera tools, including Selective Focus. This allows you to adjust the focus of an image after it has been taken.

Cameras
iPhone 5S: 8MP rear-facing camera with autofocus, dual-LED flash and HD 1080p video recording, 1.2MP front-facing camera
Samsung Galaxy S5: 16MP rear-facing camera with autofocus, LED flash and 4K video recording, 2.2MP front-facing camera

While the iPhone 5S 8MP camera doesn't sound all that impressive on paper, it's an improvement over the one on the iPhone 5. The upgraded dual-LED flash means images look more natural than before, and Apple has also increased the sensor's pixel size, which means that more light gets into images. Our favourite feature of the iPhone 5S camera, however, is the ability to record slow-motion video.

Apple iPhone 5S camera

The Samsung Galaxy S5 features a 16MP rear-facing camera, an improvement on the Galaxy S4's 13MP sensor, which arrives with features such as an LED flash, autofocus, HDR, smile detection and the capability to record video and take images at the same time. It's also capable of shooting video at 4K resolution, whereas the iPhone 5S can only manage HD 1080p video recording.

Battery
iPhone 5S: 1,560mAh battery with 10 hours of quoted talk time
Samsung Galaxy S5: 2,800mAh battery with 21 hours of quoted talk time

The iPhone has never been regarded as having the best battery life, and while the 1,560mAh battery in the iPhone 5S offers an improvement over the one in its predecessor, you're still likely to get only 10 hours of talk time. The Galaxy S5 2,800mAh battery will, according to Samsung, offer around 21 hours of constant talk time, and the firm has also added a unique power saving feature, which means when the battery drains to 10 percent, it can last another 24 hours on standby.

Storage
iPhone 5S: 16GB/32GB/64GB built-in
Samsung Galaxy S5: 16GB/32GB built-in, expandable via microSD card up to 128GB

The iPhone 5S is lacking when it comes to storage. While the phone is available in three different models, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB, there is no slot to expand this via microSD card.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the clear winner on internal storage. Samsung will make the phone available in both 16GB and 32GB internal storage models, and thanks to the microSD card slot this can be expanded by up to 128GB.

 

Nokia XL hands-on review

10 Mar 2014

This year's Mobile World Congress (MWC) is a big one for Nokia, with the firm taking the wraps off its debut Android smartphones - the Nokia X, the Nokia X1 and the highest specified of the three, the Nokia XL.

The Nokia XL isn't an average Android smartphone, however. The 5in device runs a forked version of Google's mobile operating system, with Nokia heavily customising it to look more like Microsoft's Windows Phone and to promote both its own and Microsoft's apps and services.

It's a risky strategy for Nokia, however, so we took a hands-on look at the Nokia XL to see if the gamble is likely to pay off.

Design
The Nokia XL is the biggest of Nokia's three X branded Android devices, featuring a large 5in display and measuring 141x78x10.9mm. That said, it doesn't feel overly big in the hand, with Nokia designing the phone with a thin bezel to avoid unnecessary bulk.

Nokia XL will be available in a number of different colours including orange

The build quality of the Nokia XL is one of the handset's most impressive aspects. The handset features a unibody polycarbonate plastic design, which feels both sturdy and comfortable to hold, although its angular casing can make the device tricky to operate with one hand.

Much like Nokia's Lumia device line, which Stephen Elop said remains the firm's "primary smartphone strategy" earlier at MWC, the Nokia XL will be available in a range of different colours - green, yellow, orange, black and white. We got our hands on the bright orange model, which could attract punters looking for an Android smartphone that's going to turn heads.

Screen
With the Nokia XL set to retail for just €109, Nokia has had to cut corners. Unfortunately, one of those cutbacks is in the display, with the 5in screen featuring lowly 480x800 resolution.

From the outset it's obvious that the Nokia XL has a low resolution screen, with the edges of Nokia's custom Tiled user interface appearing fuzzy, while text was not as sharp as that on the Nokia Lumia 1320, for example.

Nokia XL Android phone features a Windows Phone like UI

However, brightness levels and viewing angles almost match those of Nokia's higher-end Lumia devices, so if you can look past the slightly lower quality of the display, it's unlikely to prove much of a problem.

Software and performance
Of course, the Nokia XL's real talking point is the fact that it runs Google's Android mobile operating system. However, it's not your normal Android phone, with Nokia having heavily customised Android to look like Micrsoft's Windows Phone and loading the smartphone full of its own and Microsoft's apps and services.

This also means that the Nokia XL, much like Amazon's Kindle line, doesn't have access to the Google Play store, with Nokia instead offering its own Nokia Store and a number of pre-loaded apps. It's likely that this apps selection will grow, too, with Nokia claiming that Android developers can port their apps to the phone in "less than three hours".

Nokia XL app selection includes BBM and Vine

Upon firing up the device, we were impressed by how many apps already filled the handset's Windows Phone-esque homescreen, with the selection including Skype, BBM, Vine and Facebook, along with a dozen preloaded games such as Fruit Ninja and Bejeweled.

In terms of usability, we found ourselves quickly warming to Nokia's forked version of Android. It's very easy to get the hang of it, and navigation felt slick and smooth, with apps opening quickly and scrolling without lag. This is likely thanks to the dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor that's under the bonnet, as we noticed no performance lag during our time with the Nokia XL. Nokia claims this processor should make for decent battery life, too, quoting 13 hours of talk time and 37 hours on standby.

Unlike Windows Phone, a swipe on the homescreen brought up a Recent screen displaying notifications, something that's sorely missing from Microsoft's mobile operating system.

Camera
As the highest specified of Nokia's trio of X Android devices, the Nokia XL is the most impressive in the camera department, featuring a 5MP rear-facing sensor and a 2MP camera on the front.

Nokia XL has a 5MP camera

The rear-facing camera seemed to handle the show floor lights well, and snapped images of reasonable quality, although by no means on a par with Nokia's Pureview camera equipped Lumia devices. However, despite the Nokia XL being a budget device, Nokia has configured it with some built-in camera settings, which though not advanced are nice additions to a €109 handset.

First impressions
Nokia's Android stategy is a gamble, but if our first impressions are anything to go by, we think it's one that is likely to pay off. The user interface is intuitive and looks great, while Nokia has ensured that despite lacking Google Play store access, the device has a decent selection of apps.

Intel Merrifield smartphone hands-on review

10 Mar 2014

Intel unveiled its 64-bit Merrifield Atom smartphone chip at last month's Mobile World Congress (MWC), and the company is showing off what the processor is capable of in a reference design smartphone.

The Merrifield chip inside the reference design smartphone, which also has a 4in HD 720p touchscreen display and Google's Android 4.4.2 Kitkat mobile operating system, is faster than Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 chip and the Apple A7 processor found inside the iPhone 5S, according to Intel. Given these claims, we headed over to the Intel stand at MWC to put the handset through its paces, although Intel told V3 that the device is unlikely to see a release anytime soon, since it's still looking for OEM partners to bring the smartphone to market.

Design
Despite the fact that it's still unclear whether the handset will see a release, the Intel Merrifield reference smartphone sported one of the more interesting designs we've seen at this year's MWC.

Intel Merrifield smartphone design

While it's fairly bulky and heavy, with Intel telling us the design definitely will be streamlined ahead of a rollout, it features a quirky look that's likely to stand out from the crowd. The rear of the device, which is made predominantly from plastic coated in toughened glass-like material much like the Sony Xperia Z2, features curved edges that soften the otherwise angular appearance of the handset.

Screen
Intel's Merrifield reference design handset has a 4in 1280x720 resolution display, although Intel did not release full details about the screen.

Intel Merrifield reference handset with 4in 720p HD display

Still, while it's not HD 1080p, we had no complaints about the display, although we did find brightness levels somewhat lacking compared to those of other Android smartphones on the market.

Performance
Of course the big thing about this device is the processor under the bonnet, which is a dual-core 2.3GHz 64-bit Merrifield Atom chip.

We experienced no performance lag while using the handset, with the device easily outperforming previous Intel Atom devices. Google's Android 4.4 Kitkat mobile operating system ran smoothly without any hiccups, likely aided by the fact that it was running a vanilla version with a user interface skin. In particular, gaming on the handset was extremely nippy.

Intel Merrifield smartphone handled gameplay well

We even managed to benchmark the device using Geekbench 3. The handset scored a single-core figure of 859, which means it stacks up well compared to other big name smartphones on the market, despite having only two cores. For example, the Intel Merrifield Atom reference design smartphone outperformed the LG G2, which scored 838, and the Samsung Galaxy S4, which benchmarked at 773.

Intel Merrifield smartphone benchmark score

Intel's Merrifield Atom processor also has integrated sensor management, which means that apps are always kept contextually up to date, and also meant that the reference design handset was stuffed full of fitness focused features, much like the Samsung Galaxy S5. This likely will help OEMs to take the device to market, as it means they will be able to challenge Samsung's latest flagship smartphone without too much effort.

First impressions
Following our hands-on with the Intel Merrifield Atom reference design smartphone, we're looking forward to the appearance of the first smartphones with these Atom chips later this year, with Dell, Asus and Lenovo all committed to bringing Merrifield Atom smartphones to market in 2014. What's more, if prices remain as low as they were for the previous generation of Intel Atom smartphones, we think the big names in the smartphone industry should be worried, as the Merrifield Atom chip offered silky smooth performance during our time with it.

Xperia Z2 vs Galaxy S5 spec by spec

07 Mar 2014

Samsung and Sony went head to head at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC), with the two firms unveiling their latest flagship Android devices, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2, respectively. 

Both manufacturers are hoping their high specification devices will win the affections of those in the market for a flagship Android smartphone, and with both the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 boasting similar specification sheets, it's going to be a tough race to call.

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs Sony Xperia Z2

We've pitted the Samsung Galaxy S5 specifications up against those of the Sony Xperia Z2 to see which smartphone is worth splashing the cash to buy.

Design, measurements and weight
Samsung Galaxy S5: 142x73x8.1mm, 145g
Sony Xperia Z2: 147x73x8.3mm, 163g

While they have similar dimensions and weights, the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 are worlds apart in design.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 features a dimpled plastic casing edged in aluminium, an improvement over last year's glossy plastic model, and is available in more colours than the Galaxy S4, too - black, white, blue and gold. The Sony Xperia Z2, on the other hand, looks nearly identical to its Xperia Z1 predecessor, featuring the same boxy, eye-catching design that received high marks in our review last year.

Samsung Galaxy S5 is IP67 certified

While it hasn't seen much of an upgrade in design, the Sony Xperia Z2 improves on last year's model in size, measuring 8.2mm thick compared to 8.5mm. The Samsung Galaxy S5, on the other hand, is a bit chunkier than its predecessor, although it still measures just 8.1mm thick.

Both the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 arrive resistant against dust and water too, with the two smartphones touting IP67 and IP58 certification. However, the Galaxy S5 edges the Xperia Z1 with additional hardware features, including a fingerprint sensor and a heart rate monitor.

Screen
Samsung Galaxy S5: 5.1in 1920x1080 Super Amoled display, 432ppi
Sony Xperia Z1: 5.2in 1920x1080 IPS Triluminos display, 424ppi

If you're looking to select your next smartphone purchase based on display, you're going to have a tough decision, with the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z1 sporting almost identical displays. The Xperia Z2 touts a 5.2in HD 1080p screen with a pixel density of 424ppi, while the Galaxy S5 edges it slightly with a 5.1in HD 1080p display with a pixel density of 432ppi.

Sony Xperia Z2 Android smartphone hands-on - 4K display

What's more, with Samsung configuring the Galaxy S5 with Super Amoled screen technology and Sony using its Triluminos display technology on the Xperia Z2, both screens offer very vibrant images and sharp text, so it will be difficult to call a winner out of the two.

Processor
Samsung Galaxy S5: Quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
Sony Xperia Z2: Quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor

Much like with their displays, the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 should be pretty evenly matched in performance, as both have Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor. We've had some hands-on time with both devices, and both are impressively quick - so it will be hard to call a winner in this category, too. However, the Xperia Z2 does squeeze in more RAM, boasting 3GB of RAM compared to 2GB of RAM in the Galaxy S5.

Software
Samsung Galaxy S5: Android 4.4.2 Kitkat, custom UI
Sony Xperia Z2: Android 4.4.2 Kitkat, custom UI

Both the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 arrive with the latest version of Google's Android mobile operating system, Android 4.4.2 Kitkat. Both devices also have a custom user interface (UI) from their respective manufacturer, skinning Google's stock UI and stuffing the handset full of custom applications.

Samsung has toned down its UI on the Galaxy S5 compared to the version on the Galaxy S4, and has also given it a lick of paint, making it more stripped down and easy to use, much like Apple's iOS 7 mobile operating system. However, it's still recognisable as a Samsung Galaxy S smartphone, featuring the same widget layout and the same applications on the homescreen.

Samsung Galaxy S5 features an updated Android UI

Samsung has introduced some new features with its latest custom UI, though. Among these is My Magazine, a HTC Blinkfeed-style feed which is accessed by swiping left on the homescreen. Samsung has also included S Health 3.0, taking advantage of the smartphone's built-in sensors to monitor its user's fitness activities. There are several new camera features included, too, including Selective Focus, which allows the user to re-adjust the focus after an image has been taken.

Sony's custom UI, however, remains largely unchanged from the version found on last year's Xperia Z1. We've always found that Sony's UI is more usable than those of other smartphone makers, and while the handset still arrives covered in custom widgets and applications, it's a much cleaner design than that of others on the market. That said, we still find it a little overbearing compared to Google's vanilla Android UI.

Sony Xperia Z2 Android smartphone hands-on - 4K display side

The Sony Xperia Z2 is preloaded with Sony's Walkman and PlayStation companion apps as seen on the Xperia Z1, as well as some new camera features and noise cancellation technology to help block out background sounds while listening to music.

Cameras
Samsung Galaxy S5: 16MP rear-facing camera with autofocus, LED flash and 4K video recording, 2MP front-facing camera
Sony Xperia Z2: 20.7MP rear-facing camera with autofocus, LED flash and 4K video recording, 2.2MP front-facing camera

The Samsung Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 both claim to offer huge improvements in their cameras, and despite Sony's higher resolution sensor, the two handsets likely will be fairly evenly matched.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 features a 16MP rear-facing camera, an improvement on the Galaxy S4's 13MP sensor, which arrives with onboard features such as an LED flash, autofocus, HDR, smile detection and the capability to record video and take images at the same time. It's also capable of shooting video at 4K resolution.

Samsung Galaxy S5 has a 16MP rear camera sensor

The Sony Xperia Z2 features the same 20.7MP sensor as its predecessor, but it also has a number of improvements, such as the ability to shoot 4K video. Much like the Galaxy S5, there are several camera features too, such as HDR, image stablelisation and panorama mode.

Sony Xperia Z2 Android smartphone hands-on - camera

Both the Galaxy S5 and the Xperia Z2 feature 2.2MP cameras on the front, both of which are capable of shooting HD 1080p video.

Battery
Samsung Galaxy S5: 2,800mAh battery with 21 hours of quoted talk time
Sony Xperia Z2: 3,200mAh battery with 19 hours of quoted talk time

The Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2 both have upgraded batteries, but although the Xperia Z2 has the larger cell, it looks like the Galaxy S5 might edge it. The Galaxy S5's 2,800mAh battery will, according to Samsung, offer around 21 hours of constant talk time, while Sony claims that the Xperia Z2's larger 3,200mAh battery is good for 19 hours.

Storage
Samsung Galaxy S5: 16GB/32GB built-in, microSD up to 128GB
Sony Xperia Z2: 16GB built-in, microSD up to 64GB

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the clear winner for storage. Samsung will make the phone available in both 16GB and 32GB storage versions, and thanks to the onboard microSD card slot this can be expanded by up to 128GB.

The Xperia Z2, on the other hand, will be available only in a 16GB model that can be expanded by up to 64GB via microSD card.

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