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December 31, 2011

Review Gadget : Pantech Pocket review

Hundreds of smartphones of all shapes, sizes and colors pass through the doors of Engadget HQ every year, so it's natural for a few oddball devices with crazy form factors to end up in our hands from time to time. The Motorola Flipout, LG DoublePlayKyocera Echo and Samsung DoubleTime are all instances of carriers trying something new, seeing what sticks. Of course, pushing out a phone with an unproven form factor is a huge gamble for a mobile provider, and as a result they only ship to stores in low volume and rarely receive any kind of marketing campaign at its launch. Indeed, the vast majority of these types of phones are low-end devices aimed at young adults and first-time smartphone buyers, but we still find it adventurous to take a break from the monotony of black slabs and try out something completely different.

Review Gadget : Samsung Captivate Glide review

The QWERTY slider hasn't exactly gone the way of the dinosaur, but it's definitely approaching giant panda status. That is to say, it's become rare for a major device manufacturer to output anything other than candybar touchscreen smartphones. And why not? Slimmer, faster, beastlier is the mobile motto as of late and that's precisely what consumers seem to gravitate towards. But for diehard fans of tactile feedback, Samsung's birthed the Captivate Glide, a handset that marries the best of both form factors. Sitting just below its high-end brethren, Sammy's 4-incher runs along AT&T's 21Mbps HSPA+ network and bundles an 800 x 480 Super AMOLED display with a dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB of internal storage, a 1,650mAh battery, WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, a 1.3MP front-facing camera and an 8MP rear camera capable of 720p video capture. At $150 on a two-year contract, it's just half a Benjamin short of the top-tier, LTE-capable HTC Vivid. With that small of a price divide, you have to wonder: is the downgrade really worth it for the Captivate Glide's (comparatively) slower speeds and physical buttons? Are you willing to trade-in thin and sleek for messaging convenience and a bit of bulk? Follow on past the break as we deliver the answers to those burning questions.

Review Gadget : Samsung Stratosphere review

Once upon a time, in the not-so-distant past, Verizon was still in phase one of its LTE lineup, which consisted of nothing but 4.3-inch slate phones with questionable battery life and very little to stand out from the rest of the competition. Now that we're seeing the second generation of devices coming into the 4G fold, Big Red appears to be pushing choice -- not just in terms of size and feel, but price as well. The Pantech Breakout was the first to, well, break out of the mold, offering a smaller form factor for a much more reasonable cost. It was nothing to write home about, but the fact that it existed gave us hope that we'd see a slew of phones in the same price range, finally making high-speed connectivity a more affordable option.

Review Gadget : Verizon Galaxy Nexus review

It's the Galaxy Nexus. It has LTE. It's the phone we've been waiting (and waiting) for. Sure, some of our more globe-trotting members of the staff were suitably sated by the HSPA+ version that shipped a few weeks ago, but the rest of us domestic types simply need more bandwidth. Or, at least, we like to think that we do, and this $300 (on-contract) Verizon release certainly has that in spades.

However, there's something missing :  Google Wallet. That company's attempt at reinventing commerce isn't here and, while nobody's saying for sure, it surely has something to do with Verizon not wanting to kneecap the Isis payment service it has invested in. That leaves us wondering: with restrictions on what apps can be installed, and some rather prominent carrier branding on the back, is this really a Nexus device at all? And, more importantly, is it a good phone? Those answers and more wait for you below.

Review Gadget : Motorola Xyboard 8.2 review

The march of the Honeycomb tablets goes on, playing a tune that's starting to get a bit muted thanks to the promise of fresher beats coming from Ice Cream Sandwich. Still, there are plenty of ways for manufacturers to add their own bit of swing to the same 'ol song. Motorola, of course, paved the way for all these slates with the Xoom. It's hard to believe that first Honeycomb tablet was released just 10 months ago, but now we have its successor, the Xyboard, here in its 8.2-inch guise.

At least, that's what it's being called domestically. Elsewhere it's the Xoom 2 (we reviewed the 10.1-inch flavor already), but in America we get a patently unfortunate moniker for a tablet that offers an interesting design at an interesting size with the interesting bonus of LTE. But, all that mobile bandwidth is going to cost you: $430 for the 16GB model or $530 for 32GB if you sign on for a two-year data contract. Does the funky design, convenient size and high-rate connectivity make up for the added cost over something like the class-leading Transformer Prime? Let's find out.

Review Gadget : Meizu MX review

A quick tag search for "Meizu" on Engadget takes us all the way back to April 2006, where we saw the launch of the Chinese company's M6 Mini Player with MP4 playback. But in fact, if you go as far back as early 2003 (before Engadget was even born) you'll also dig up the Meizu MX, which was eventually launched towards the end of the year. Confused? Well, bear with us here: this MX was Meizu's first ever product, a simple 128MB or 256MB MP3 player that unfortunately bore much resemblance to the Cowon iAudio CW300, albeit with different guts. Was this a case of shameless cloning or just an OEM product being rebadged? Our money's on the latter, but only with Monopoly bills.

December 13, 2011

Review Gadget : Galaxy Player 4.0 review

Galaxy Player 4.0

Apple users have the iPod touch, but what about Android fans? Where do they turn when looking for an app-running, connected media player -- basically a smartphone without the phone? Well, believe it or not, there are a few options out there (like the Philips GoGear and Cowon's D3) And one of the premier lines is certainly Samsung's Galaxy Player offerings which, as the name implies, borrow a few things from their beloved cellphone siblings. There's both a 4.0 ($230) and a 5.0 ($270) model which have four- and five-inch screens, respectively, but, besides the size, the two are practically identical in the specs department. We toyed with the smaller Galaxy Player 4.0 for a couple of weeks and our thoughts on Sammy's (somewhat pricier) answer to the iPod touch are right after the break.

December 07, 2011

Review Gadget : ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime review

Is there any tablet that's hotter than the Transformer Prime right now? (Please, don't say the Kindle Fire.) For weeks we geeks, early adopters and people who love their tech toys have been awaiting this, and none too patiently. Make no mistake: this will be one of the slickest products we test this year and it isn't just because the original Transformer had such an inventive design. The Prime is the first device packing NVIDIA's hot-off-the-presses Tegra 3 SoC, making it the world's first quad-core tablet. This comes with promises of longer-than-ever runtime and blazing performance (five times faster than Tegra 2, to be exact), all wrapped in a package measuring just 8.3mm (0.33 inches) thick -- even skinnier than the iPad 2 or Galaxy Tab 10.1. Throw in specs like a Super IPS+ Gorilla Glass display, eight megapixel rear camera and a confirmed ICS update in the pipe and even we seen-it-all Engadget editors were drooling.

All of which means we dropped just everything when a 32GB Prime showed up on our doorstep earlier this week, and soon enough, you'll have your chance to nab one too. ASUS announced today that the WiFi-only models will be available through online sellers the week of December 19th, and in retail the week after. (No word yet on 3G versions for the US just yet.) It'll start at $499 for the 32GB model -- not bad considering five hundred bucks is the going rate for a high-end tablet with 16GB of storage. From there you can get a 64GB number for $599, while that signature keyboard dock will set you back a further $149. Worth it? Read on to find out.

Review Gadget : Motorola Xoom 2 review

Motorola's Xoom 2 arrives at a point where Apple's iPad (first- or second-generation...) still dominates the tablet market. The original Xoom was the first tablet to arrive with Android Honeycomb, an OS dedicated to the tablet form. In the months since we gave it a middling review, plenty more tablets arrived, faster, thinner, and more longevous (like the Galaxy Tab 10.1).

So what now? Well, Motorola has recast its Xoom: it's made it faster, slimmer and lighter.
They've beefed up the disappointing screen found on the original, it's now a Gorilla Glass-coated IPS screen that promises 178-degree viewing angles. But Motorola has also cut more corners than the four you see before you -- ones that it hopes customers won't miss.

However, with a certain quad-cored, ICS-imminent transforming tablet already stealing the hearts of many an Engadget reader (and editor), does this slimline sequel do enough to make up for its past mistakes? Is there now enough in the Android market to make Google-powered tablets a viable alternative to the iPad? Is £396 ($620) now too much to pay for a 16GB Android tablet that's merelydual-core? We'll be sure to try and answer all these right after the break.

Review Gadget : LG Nitro HD review

AT&T's lonesome LTE duo -- the Samsung GS II Skyrocket and HTC Vivid -- just gained a new member with the recent launch of LG's Nitro HD. You may recognize this particular handset from its former life as the Optimus LTE, except here the phone's been rebranded with a moniker that more astutely conveys its blazing 4G purpose. There may be tough times ahead for the handset, considering the current crop of high-end devices hogging the spotlight. But if three's company, the Galaxy Nexus, HTC Rezound and Droid RAZR are sure to make this a standing room-only crowd -- an especially haughty bunch given their heavyweight specs. Which is why this sudden end-of-year release for the Nitro HD has us questioning the company's timing. Sure, it's no slouch when stacked up against the competition, with a 4.5-inch 1280 x 720 AH-IPS display, dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm APQ8060 processor and 1.3 front-facing / 8 megapixel rear cameras. Yet at $250 on contract, the Nitro HD needs to outshine the legacy set by its best-in-class Sammy stablemate or, at least, offer a performance boost over the cheaper Vivid. So can LG's last second contender rise above the fray to win your holiday dollars? Will it succeed in outclassing its LTE compadres? Or is it a case of too little, too late for this metoo three! smartphone. Follow on past the break as we dive into the mobile nitty gritty.

Review Gadget : Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket review

Who knew AT&T's version of the Samsung Galaxy S II had a younger, larger brother on the way? Just a hair over a month after the carrier launched its flagship Android device, it's already set for another go-round. This one, the Galaxy S II Skyrocket, offers a larger display and "true" 4G connectivity using LTE -- yes, it's a pioneer blazing a new trail to Ma Bell's wild and untamed frontier, right alongside the HTC Vivid. It's time to answer the burning questions: what kinds of speeds are possible on AT&T's LTE network? Is the series' legendary battery life up to snuff on the next-gen network? Join us below to find out.

Review Gadget : LG DoublePlay review

It's no secret that Android's dominance of the smartphone world is due in part to the sheer number of models available running the OS. This abundance of choice, while undoubtedly good for consumers, presents a challenge for OEMs as they design and build handsets: how to craft a device that stands out from the crowd? At this point, we've seen slabs of all sizes, a legion of landscape sliders, and a dual-screen oddity join the Android family. Now, LG has created the DoublePlay, giving users both a hint of the Echo's dual screen experience along with a split physical keyboard for tactile typing. In doing so, the company has accomplished something we weren't sure was possible by building a unique Android phone. The question is, does this unusual form factor provide an improved user experience, or is it destined to go down in gadget history as a gimmick?

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