Ever since the Note series rose to power and propelled the phablet class to stardom, their reign has only been disturbed once. The first generation of the G Pro, known as Optimus back then, was unveiled as the ultimate phablet in terms of specs, but the patchy market availability and inadequate marketing backup prevented it from reaching its potential.
LG G Pro 2 official photos
Now, a generation older and a year wiser, LG will be looking to prove that it can learn from its mistakes and produce a device that can finally put a proper challenge for the phablet throne. The G Pro 2 certainly seems to have the right tools for the job: powerful hardware, brilliant screen and minimal bezels, plus a bunch of home-baked software features for an extra bit of exclusivity.
Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support; Quad-band 3G with HSPA; LTE cat4
5.9" 16M-color 1080p True HD IPS Plus FullHD capacitive touchscreen
13MP autofocus camera with LED flash, geotagging, Intelligent Auto, optical image stabilization, Time catch shot, smart shutter and VR panoramas
4K video recording @ 30fps with continuous autofocus and stereo sound; HDR mode, Dual recording, optical image stabilization
2.1MP front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
16/32GB of built-in storage, microSD card slot
microUSB port, USB host support, USB on-the-go, SlimPort TV-out
Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA
GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
Standard 3.5mm audio jack
Multi-tasking with mini-apps and optional transparency (QSlide)
Accelerometer and proximity sensor
Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
Huge 3,200mAh Li-Ion battery
IR emitter for remote control of home appliances
Plastic finish of the back cover has poor grip
No dedicated camera key
No FM radio
The LG G Pro 2 gets quite a lot of things right, and while it's only able to match the Galaxy S5 for processing power, its innovative design should help tip the scales in its favor. Rear-mounted buttons may seem like an odd solution at first sight, but everyone who's handled the G2 will tell you that once you get used to them, you realize that they are actually a truly inspired bit of engineering thought.
LG G Pro 2 live photos
Then there's also the camera that matches the Galaxy Note 3 unit for resolution and video recording and one-ups it with optical image stabilization. Given that low-light performance was the Achilles' heel of the Samsung phablet, this might be the right ingredient to turn a solid camera into a flawless performer.
This is certainly going to be an exciting battle, and one that will potentially shape the mobile landscape. And we're lucky to be watching from the front row. Join us on the next page for the hardware inspection.
The Nokia Lumia Icon for Verizon Wireless is the most capable smartphone to come out of the Finnish manufacturer to date. A successor to the Nokia Lumia 928, the carrier-exclusive Windows Phone handset ticks all the boxes of a proper flagship smartphone - from the chipset, through the camera and the display, all the way to the premium build and finish.
Nokia Lumia Icon official photos
Despite being fresh on the market, the Nokia Lumia Icon is hardly unfamiliar. The smartphone shares most of its innards with the Nokia Lumia 1520 phablet. They include the beefy Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset, as well as the capable 20MP PureView camera with Carl Zeiss optics. Here's what else the Icon has to offer.
Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support
Quad-band 3G with 21.1 Mbps HSDPA and 5.7 Mbps HSUPA support
Nokia HERE Drive+ with free lifetime worldwide voice-guided navigation
32GB of built-in storage
Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
Wireless charging with optional accessories
Built-in accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor
Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP and file transfers
Xbox Live integration and Xbox management
Mediocre battery life
Somewhat thick for a flagship
No microSD card slot
Over the top carrier branding somewhat spoils the design
Lack of support for Nokia Glance Screen
Only available for Verizon Wireless in the United States
A quick glance at the key features reveals that the Nokia Lumia Icon is almost as well-equipped as a smartphone can be these days. Last year's GDR3 update for Windows Phone 8 opened the platform to the latest available hardware, so Nokia's high-end smartphone is as good any Android powerhouse currently on the market (and not too far behind the upcoming flagship wave, either).
In addition to the beefy internals, the Nokia Lumia Icon relies on the Finnish company's traditional strengths to succeed. They include hugely capable camera, nicely spec'd display, and good looks to go with an array of exclusive and handy services.
Nokia Lumia Icon live photos
All in all, the Nokia Lumia Icon has the making of a solid high-end smartphone proposition. We are not going to waste any more time introducing the smartphone. Head over to the next page where we will kick the in-depth review off with an unboxing of the Windows Phone flagship.
Editorial: You might notice that this review is shorter than usual and doesn't include some of our proprietary tests. The reason is it has been prepared and written far away from our home office and test lab. Still, we think we've captured the essence of the device in the same precise, informative and detailed way that's become our trademark. Enjoy the good read!
The Samsung Galaxy Grand was the big-screened Samsung phone for the masses last season - and one that conveniently offered an extra SIM slot. It didn't go as far as the Galaxy Mega pair, stopping instead at 5-inches sharp of screen diagonal. This year, the Galaxy Grand 2 needs to be better in every way to get the attention of those who like their phones with big screens and decent price tags.
And, by the looks of it, it does - only topped by the latest flagships in our popularity chart. The Grand 2 improves on every bit that counts. It comes with a bigger 5.25" display without adding too much body fat - this year's model is just slightly taller. The bezels have been slimmed down and the resolution has gone up from WVGA (480 x 800) to 720p, resulting in a pixel density of the much more pleasing 280ppi (over 187ppi in the original).
Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
The design has been greatly improved as well: in comes the faux stitched leather at the back, out with the gloss of the older generation. The camera remains the same but processing is more robust, ditching the Broadcom dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU for a quad-core Cortex-A7 made by Qualcomm.
Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE; quad-band 3G with HSPA, LTE
Only 5GB of inbuilt storage available to user out of box
No KitKat at launch
Overly reflective screen with poor sunlight legibility
Then there's the battery, which is probably the best improvement of all - going from 2,100mAh to 2,600mAh, which should help make up for the larger, higher-res screen and the quad-core.
As for the equally important issue of price - the Galaxy Grand 2 isn't priced too high, starting at around €250, while the Grand currently costs around €160. There's also a dual-SIM version - in fact the one we're reviewing is carrying the Duos label.
Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 live pictures
Without doubt, Samsung has done a good job of making a credible package even more desirable. This is by no means a single pony race though, the Android landscape full of potential competitors, especially in this price range. Sony has contenders of its own and HTC will want to have a say too, while Samsung itself offers plenty of choice.
The Galaxy Grand 2 seems to have what it takes to stand out but we do need a closer look before any judgment is passed. Might as well start right away, the next page deals with the design and build.
We venture again into the realm of phablets, one that at the beginning seemed to promise little more than a short burst of action, has become the scene of some of the most thrilling battles this industry has seen. The showdown we're about to witness though could well be the climax and a new beginning, all at once. A new dimension of a rivalry that's been going for years but is now more heated than ever.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 emerged from every battle without so much as a scratch. The lineup has defined the segment and the third generation is an impressive all-rounder with rock-solid still imaging, probably the best video a phone can produce, processing power to spare and plenty of value-adding software features. The S Pen also makes sure the Note 3 caters to artists and creative in a way hardly any device would.
Nokia is only just entering the phablet space, but years of design and imaging excellence are finally made to count, now that Microsoft has finally taken the platform up to speed, enabling support for the latest in screen resolution and computing power. What once put the N and E series at the top of the smartphone food chain must be running in the veins of the Lumia 1520 too.
Ironically, it's phablets where Windows Phone is finally able to stand up to Android in a meaningful, unconditional way. In the end though, there couldn't have been a more appropriate scene for this battle. A battle that may never have happened. A killer droid against a droid killer.
Nokia Lumia 1520 over the Samsung Galaxy Note 3
A little more screen real estate
Bigger camera sensor - 1/2.5" vs 1/3.06" and higher resolution - 20MP vs 13MP
Optical image stabilization
Superior battery life
Four microphone setup, WDR audio recording
Offline maps and voice-guided navigation
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 over the Nokia Lumia 1520
S-Pen stylus input and good software backing
More compact - 151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm vs 162.8 x 85.4 x 8.7 mm
Lighter - 168 g vs 209 g
More RAM - 3 GB vs 2 GB
64 GB of built-in storage version
Slightly higher-clocked chipset - 2.3 GHz vs 2.2 GHz
4K (2160p) video recording over 1080@30fps
2 MP 1080p front-facing camera vs 1.2 MP 720p one
Temperature and humidity sensors
IR port for remote control functionality
These two are powered by identical Snapdragon 800 chipsets and have massive full-HD screens. It's Super AMOLED against ClearBlack LCD, PureView against S Pen, Nokia against Samsung, Android against Windows Phone. Apps and services is where the battle will be fought too. PureView and the software behind it, Nokia Music, Nokia Drive and Microsoft Office against the stylus-enabled apps and features, the latest TouchWiz treats, and the Google services.
This massive 12.2” tablet is Samsung’s answer to both the iPad Air and the Surface 2. Samsung has taken Android and placed what they call the Magazine UX on top of it. While I’m not so certain the new homescreen interface is necessarily the best for “professionals”, it takes the best parts of Windows 8’s live tiles and is a big improvement over most of Samsung’s typical TouchWiz Android skins. The Note Pro also includes the Note 3’s excellent stylus to make for a big tablet that is fun to interact with and write on.
This Kickstarter darling made its big public appearance at CES this year and the result was quite exciting. This 3D printing pen takes all of the modeling out of 3D printing and opens up creating objects to pretty much everyone—including kids. While you might not be able to do quite as much as you could with an actual 3D printer, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to play with for only $99.
8. Mophie Space Pack
There are always an insane amount of smartphone accessory companies at CES, but few of them manage to capture the attention of audiences. Then there was a Mophie Space pack. This iPhone 5/5s case not only charges your phone with additional battery, it also adds 32GB of storage to your device. The Mophie lets you drop your videos, pictures, and documents straight into its storage and even lets you play videos right from it. Not only that, the Space Pack is designed beautifully and surprisingly doesn’t add a lot of heft to the phone.
7. Steam Machines
The desire to break into the home console market has been growing among both consumers and companies for years now, whether it’s from independent Android consoles like the Ouya or big rumored living room takeovers from the likes of Valve or Apple. This year at CES was where Valve CEO Gabe Newell finally lifted the lid off of the first generation of Steam Machines. The amount of computers on display was a bit shocking—as was the announcement that the consoles would range from anywhere between $500 and $6000. While many of these models still feel like prototypes in many ways, there is no longer any question regarding whether or not Valve is actually serious about the living room market. They are—and Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have reason to be paying attention.
6. LG’s Curved TV
The whole curved screen shtick has quickly become the great gimmick of 2014—that is, until LG showed off its 105” OLED 4k TV that just happened to have a nice flexible display on it. The curvature to this massive, gorgeous television feels just right—and unlike the curved displays on their smartphones, actually enhances the experience. This might be another product that won’t be hitting Best Buy shelves anytime soon, but that doesn’t take anything from the fact that LG has made an immersive and interesting television.
5. Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Smartphones aren’t really much of a thing at CES anymore because most of the big manufacturers now save the unveiling of their flagship devices for their individual conferences and press events. However, Sony quietly brought what might be their best smartphone in years to the show: the Xperia Z1 Compact. Despite the silly name, the Z1 Compact feels like the . If this device eventually makes it to US market and is available at carrier stores, the excellent camera and accessible form factor might just make it the early frontrunner in the 2014 Android scene.
4. Playstation Now
Playstation Now isn’t exactly a gadget—but for gamers, this online game streaming service was the most important announcement at CES this year. Sony had purchased the cloud gaming service Gaikai in 2012, but it wasn’t until this year at CES that we knew what for. Not only does Playstation Now effortlessly solve the backwards compatibility problem, but now Sony just may have the Playstation 4’s killer app—the thing that will make gamers want to reserve space for it under their TV.
3. Oculus Rift Crystal Cove
The Oculus Rift is one of those prototypes that just keeps getting better and better each time we see it. This year, Oculus showed off their new prototype, the Crystal Cove. This new hardware takes care of nearly all of the problems I noticed with the original—most notably the motion blurring, the resolution, and the lack of head tracking. Now armed with a camera that tracks the movement of your head in space (think Kinect here), the Oculus Rift’s experience is now that much more immersive. I can’t wait to see what Oculus ends up shipping customers—all I know is that it feels like it’s getting awful close.
2. Sony 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector
Sony’s most peculiar and most exciting announcement this year was the Ultra Short Throw 4k Projector. Due to the surprisingly short distance the projector sits from the wall and the incredibly sharp picture, this 4k projector feels like the future of not only projectors—but TVs as a whole.
1. Pebble Steel Smartwatch
The Pebble Smartwatch made near the top of our list of best mobile gadgets of 2013—and for good reason. It was the first—and perhaps the only—smartwatch that made sense for the average person that doesn’t want strangers staring at their wrist while walking down the street. The Steel isn’t just a 2014 update to the original model—it is Pebble’s next step toward reaching the mainstream market with their device. Both the leather and aluminum straps look and feel fantastic—and while they’re no Rolex, the update might be enough for those who don’t currently wear a watch every day.
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