Category Archives: Reviews

The Lumia 1020 Has Killed The DSLR

A few years ago, when the Nokia N8 had just been released, I did a post titled N8 v a DSLR. It turned out to be hugely popular because the notion that a cameraphone could challenge the almighty DSLR, was a a concept that was almost unbelievable. At that point in time I did not suggest that the N8 was better than the DSLR, but that it was good enough for day light shots, and in the night you’d find it lacking – still it was a sign of things to come.

The Lumia 1020 Has Killed The DSLR

Continue reading The Lumia 1020 Has Killed The DSLR

Video: Detailed Lumia 1020 Hands On

At the India launch of the Lumia 1020, I spent some quality time with the new king of smartphone cameras and it is hard to come away without being thoroughly impressed with what Nokia has been able to cram into a ‘fairly’ slim device. Pricing concerns aside, the sheer power of the 41 megapixel sensor is felt the moment you pick the device up. Since the phone has a mechanical shutter, you can hear and feel the shutter open everytime you launch the camera. It is a very subtle sound, but one that manages to resonate power.

Lumia 1020 Hands On

Unlike the Lumia 920, the 1020 features a matt finish that looks and feels premium. I liked the glossy finish of the 920, so I wasn’t entirely convinced about how the matt finish would pan out, but Nokia’s somehow managed to make it feel even nicer. In the video below I go over the hardware, compare it to the Lumia 925, take a look at the Pro Camera application and play around with the camera grip accessory that Nokia will be selling alongside the 1020 – among other things.

Have any questions that you’d like answers to? Let me know in the comments section below.

Video Recording: iPhone 5 versus Lumia 928

The iPhone 5 because of its sheer popularity and competence has become the defacto standard to which new challengers can be, and are generally compared with. The Lumia 928 on paper seems like the better camera phone, it has optical image stabilisation, 3 high amplitude capture (HAAC) mics to give you distortion free sounds even when you’re shooting in loud places like concerts and finally, it has a wider field of view while shooting videos. The iPhone 5 crops the sensor when it switches to the video capture mode, so if you’re standing at the same spot and shooting video from the iPhone and the Lumia, the Lumia will get you a wider field of view.

The following videos have been shot in the default mode, and should give you a good idea of how both of these devices pan out.

Sample 1

Sample 2

I tried to keep both phones as stable as possible, so the distinct advantage of having OIS on the Lumia might not be immediately clear, but if you listen to the audio using a headset (anything apart from the regular laptop speakers) the difference in quality is abundantly clear. The Lumia sounds quieter, but is of higher quality. The difference in the field of view becomes clear immediately when I switch phones.

The one thing that I like about the iPhone is that you can tap the screen to adjust the exposure, and that’s really useful. On the Lumia, you’ll need to adjust the settings beforehand. Secondly, there were occasions where the Lumia was focus hunting, but this can be taken care of by turning continuous auto focus off from the settings.

What do you think?

Camera Shoot Out: iPhone 5 v. Lumia 928 v. Lumia 720

I have had the distinct pleasure of carrying three extremely capable camera phones with me, the iPhone 5, Nokia’s Verizon exclusive Lumia 928 and the Lumia 720. While the iPhone 5 and the Lumia 928 are flagship devices, the Lumia 720 is the surprise that keeps on delivering. For a mid range device, it has an exceptional camera capable of some amazing low light performance.

But before we get into the nitty grittiness of which camera is better, or what advantages or disadvantages each brings, lets look at a few photos shot in varying lighting conditions. The first photo will be the iPhone 5, follow by the Lumia 720 and the Lumia 928 in the end. Clicking on each photo will get you the full resolution image.

iPhone 5

Lumia 720

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 02

Lumia 720

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 03

Lumia 720

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 04

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 05

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 06

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 07

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 08

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 09

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 10

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 11

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 12

Lumia 720

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 07

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 07

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 07

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

iPhone 5

iPhone 5 Sample - 07

Lumia 720

Lumia 928

The iPhone 5, just like the iPhone 4S before it have long been hailed as some of the best camera phones on the planet, and it is for good reason. The iPhone rarely lets you down, and the ability to tap to adjust the exposure is a boon, like none other. That really comes in handy when the picture you’re trying to take has a bright light in the background. The pictures produced are generally sharp, but when it comes to low light photos despite the 808 PureView like compression that the iPhone 5 employs, there does tend to be a lot of noise. Leaving HDR on also helps as you get two photos, and get effectively choose between the better looking one in the end.

The Lumias on the other hand both work their magic in the low light. The Lumia 720 with its industry leading f1.9 aperture lets a lot of light in, while the Lumia 928 with its Xenon flash and Optical Image Stabilisation takes a slightly different approach. The OIS means that the shutter can stay open longer and let more light in, minus the camera shake. You cannot unfortunately force the Xenon to fire, it will only be used if the phone determines that there isn’t enough light. So you cannot use it like a fill-in flash when shooting against the sun for example. Fortunately there is a ‘Backlight’ mode in the Lumias that takes care of this problem, but you have to choose it everytime from the camera settings.

While I tried to keep the settings as default most of the time, due to the Lumia 928’s OIS some night pictures would turn up too bright. That means that you must play with the exposure to get that perfect shot.

So based on my experience with these three devices, here is what I think. The iPhone 5 is a great dependable camera that does most things well, the Lumia 720 despite the much cheaper price does an excellent job in keeping up, and at times even manages to beat the iPhone. The first two photos are a prime example of that. The Lumia 928 is the most capable camera of the 3, but not if you only use it in the default mode. However once you start playing around with the settings, it really comes into its own. Expect a much bigger gallery of Lumia 928 images soon.

Any questions, let me know!

Nokia Asha 501 Demo Video: Things You’ll Want To Know

Nokia-Asha-501-Yellow-Front_465The Asha 501 was announced today morning, and I’ve already covered that here. But what’s a post without a video. So here is a detailed demo of the impressive new Asha 501. In the demo we get a look at the new Lumia inspired design, the Swipe UI, the Asha platform’s new ‘Fastlane’ that brings pseudo multitasking, its performance and other things that make the Asha 501 the compelling proposition that it is.

At the 99$ price point you get a capacitive display, that is responsive to the touch like no other device in low end of the spectrum. Add to that the N9 like intuitive UI, Nokia’s services (Nokia Music is coming as well), social network integration and the wide variety of popular apps that will be available at launch, and there is very little to not like about this nifty little device.

(YouTube link)

Many thanks to Pranav Shroff of Nokia India for the demo. I shall also be publishing my own hands-on video from the launch event, so look out for that as well.

Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones

More than anything else, the biggest problem LG has at the moment is that no one really considers it a top grade Android device manufacturer. This isn’t because their devices don’t have great screens, or the latest specs, but because people don’t really associate LG with great smartphones. In the Android ecosystem its all about Samsung these days, and then to a lesser extent HTC and Sony. Tell a friend that you picked up the latest LG, and you’re sure to get a puzzled look. This sentiment is LG’s problem, and they are getting serious about fixing this.

Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones

The partnership with Google to make the Nexus 4 has really helped, but the branding is not quite there yet. So does the Optimus G help LG push that envelope further, is this a smartphone that you should think about when looking for a shiny new toy? Lets find out.

When it comes to specs, LG’s really left no stone unturned. For about 30,000 INR ($560 / 425 Euro) this devices manages to pack quite a bit of muscle:

  • A 4.7″ 16M-color WXGA True HD IPS Plus (768 x 1280 pixels) display with Gorilla Glas
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset – Quad-core 1.5 GHz Krait CPU with 2 GB of RAM, Adreno 320 GPU
  • 13 MP camera with LED flash and a 1.3 MP front-facing camera
  • 32 GB of non expandable storage
  • NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, WIFI Direct
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • Runs Jelly Bean 4.1.2
  • Stereo FM radio

VIDEO REVIEW

If you can’t see the video, click here.

DESIGN

LG generally has a tendency of following its Korean sibling, Samsung’s lead when taking cues for its smartphones, but thankfully they’ve brought something of their own to the table with the Optimus G. The device is made using plastic and glass with a metal frame surrounding the screen. The glass back also has a nice reflective texture that becomes visible when light hits it at certain angles, much like the Nexus 4 and the older Optimus devices before that. This along with the metal frame around the screen add a premium feel to the device, and the glossy plastic bezel doesn’t feel too bad at all.

Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones

LG’s gone in for a very squared look, and that means that the Optimus G can feel a little blocky at times. Since there is no curved back, the device doesn’t fit as naturally into the hand as some other devices. However, since this is a unibody design with no removable parts, it does feel quite solid and reassuring in the hand with no creaks or squeaks. At 131.9 x 68.9 x 8.5 mm and a 145 grams, the Optimus G isn’t too big or bulky. Its a little smaller than the Galaxy S3, but about 12 grams heavier.

SOFTWARE & PERFORMANCE

The Optimus G had launched with Ice Cream Sandwich, but has since been upgraded to Jelly Bean 4.1.2, while that’s not the latest Jelly Bean software, devices like the HTC One that are just coming out, also run the same release. In any case, there isn’t much that Android 4.2 (also called Jelly Bean) brings to the table that you’ll really miss.

Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones

On top of Jelly Bean 4.1.2 is LG’s very own Optimus UI. Traditionally, it has been very cartoon like and LG’s worked on toning it down. Infact, the Optimus UI comes with four themes that you can choose from, and you can also pick the font that you like from the settings. Google’s new default Android font, Roboto is available. While the icons still do not deserve an A+, you can easily live with them.

Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones

Other than that, the UI is very slick and very fast. You can literally fly past homescreens, and everything launches instantly. The lockscreen features a nice bubble like unlock animation. The notification area houses quick toggle for everything that you can think of, and then there are the Qslide apps.

If Samsung has multi window apps, where you can run two apps side by side, LG has Qslide. Arguably, this implementation is better. Basically Qslide gives you a picture on picture mode, where one app becomes transparent and lets you interact with the app under it. So for example if you are watching a video and an email pops in, instead of exiting the video, you can enable the Qslide mode and let the video play in the background (its still visible, but is now see through) while you check your email/do other tasks. Since you can also control the transparency, this feature comes in pretty handy. This works with Memo, Calendar, Browser and Calculator. The video above will give you a better idea of how this works.

Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones
Then there is also Quick Memo. This application takes a screenshot and then lets you annotate on top of that.Useful, and something similar to what Samsung has on the Galaxy Note devices.

DISPLAY

The 4.7″ 16M-color WXGA True HD IPS Plus is one of the Optimus G’s highlights, and among the best 720p displays on the market currently. What I love about high resolution LCD displays is that unlike AMOLEDs, there is no blue tinge to them, so reading text on a white background is a real pleasure. Further, a person spends a lot more time reading on the phone than looking at photos/videos. So even if the display doesn’t have the pop that AMOLED screens do, it remains a better bet.

Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones

While LG uses a zero-gap construction so that there is no air between screen layers in order to eliminate reflections, strong sunlight might present a bit of a challenge. Other than that, its everything you could want. Right under the screen are three capacitive buttons, back, home and menu. A long press on the home button brings up the task switcher, and a button to goto Google Now. You can change the duration for which they light up from the settings menu, I personally had them set to always on.

BATTERY LIFE

A quad core processor, a 720p screen, multitasking and all the other gazillion things that smartphones can do today eat into the one precious commodity that’s battery life. The Optimus G features a 2100 mAh Li-Po battery, that unlike Lithium-Ion batteries give you more charging charing cycles, about 800 in the Optimus G’s case. That’s a good things because the Optimus G’s battery isn’t end-user replaceable.

So how does the Lithium-Polymer battery do otherwise? With 3G enabled, 2 push Gmail accounts, a fair amount of Twitter and Facebook usage with notifications turned on, WhatsApp, an hour of browsing and 15 minutes of calls, you’ll get through a 9am to 8pm day. That’s not bad for a modern smartphone, without 3G and 3D gaming, the battery life will be even better. Most people shouldn’t have problems getting a day’s usage out of the device.

CAMERA

While the Optimus G boasts of a 13 MP sensor, don’t let that play on your mind too much. Unfortunately, the camera is at par with the 8MP snappers that the competition offers, and those 5 extra megapixels aren’t really doing anything for image quality. Day light photos are acceptable, but the unit struggles in low light, producing some grainy shots.

Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones

The phones does come with the ability to shoot HDR photos and panoramas out of the box. The Camera UI is nice and simple, and there are even a few fun modes to it. For example you can take a shot using your voice by saying words such as ‘Whisky’, ‘Cheese’ and so on. Then there is a mode called ‘Time Catch Shot’ that starts taking photos before you have pressed the camera button, making sure you don’t miss the right frame. Next, there is ‘Smart Shutter’ that is aimed at producing lag free photos. The phone is also capable of shooting 1080p video, with average results.

Overall the Optimus G camera is good, without being impressive. A closer look at the camera UI is available in the video review above.

CONCLUSION

The Optimus G has been available for a while now, and it isn’t exactly the newest kid on the block. But because it came a few months after devices like the Galaxy S3 and the HTC One X, it does have a few advantages over them. A faster processor, 2 GB of RAM compared on the 1GB on the S3, 32 GB of storage compared to 16 on the S3 (but no microSD slot). The HTC One X/X+ devices with their Tegra processors had a tendency of getting hot, and that’s something that’s much better on the Snapdragon powered Optimus G. All of this does make the Optimus G more future proof.

Optimus G Review: LG Gets Serious About Smartphones

Overall the Optimus G presently a very competitive package. A good looking device that has powerful hardware under the hood. The Optimus UI has been toned down and is no longer a hindrance to the functioning of the device. Infact, with Qslide apps and things like Quick memo, it does bring value to the product. So if you are in the market for a mid-high range smartphone, should you consider the Optimus G? Yes.

Infact, if LG can continue to iterate and build upon devices like the Optimus G, it is poised to be the comeback kid of the Android world.