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LG G3 raises the bar

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The new LG G3 is a mouth-watering and visually gratifying experience with all the ingredients for success, except price, writes RACHEAL DANE.

It’s only natural to have huge expectations of LG’s flagship phone and it does well to meet them. It’s powered by a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor and comes in two iterations, a 2GB version with 16GB built-in flash storage, and a 3GB version with 32GB built-in flash. Together, the processor and RAM pack a heavy punch, carrying enough horsepower to handle almost anything thrown at it.

Software

The G3 is running KitKat 4.4.2, the latest version of Android, which went live only days before the phone’s launch. LG has tinkered with the software to make it stand out among similar versions on different phones.

It’s been made more beautiful through its simplicity and a more geometric user interface. The bright colours have been replaced with more mature tones. The icons are primarily made up of squares and circles.

The KnockOn feature is a neat addition, which allows the phone to be awakened or put to sleep through a couple of taps on the screen. LG has included the QSlide or Dual Window option to make multi-tasking convenient. In a bid to offer a user-friendly experience, G3 comes with the Smart Keyboard, which injects a heavy dose of convenience into typing.

Security is a major concern for most Android users, and LG seeks to address this to some extent through Guest mode, which allows the phone to be shared with accessibility to limited apps only, and a kill switch, which can disable the phone permanently.

Display

Display is where the LG G3 truly shines. With a massive 5.5-inch QuadHD LCD display, the phone offers a visual experience that has never been offered before, at least not by a major cellphone manufacturer. The resolution of 2560 x 1440, with an impressive 534 ppi pixel density, allows G3 to outdo its 1080p global competitors. Everything from color accuracy and contrast to viewing angles is improved. The IPS display has just the right amount of brightness to keep the screen visible and useful even on a sunny day.

Design

Even though the G3 is a 5.5-inch phone, it is built in such a way that it feels like a 5-inch phone. The design may fall short of being drop-dead gorgeous, but it’s still sleek and curvaceous, carrying a substantial amount of visual appeal. The front of the phone is mostly occupied by the display: 76.4 percent to be more precise. The bezels have been kept slim, with LG sticking to the rear-mounted buttons with which users are all too familiar, courtesy of the G2.

One drawback of the G3’s design is its plastic body. At first glance, it may be confused with a metallic body, but unfortunately it’s not. But it’s one of the best-looking fake metallic bodies yet. Even the back panel of the phone is plastic, though it has a textured pattern. Fortunately, it doesn’t have that typical slimy feel to it, remaining impervious to fingerprints.

Camera

While you’ll still need to keep a DSLR handy for serious photography, the G3’s camera is great for capturing everyday memories or sudden moments that are worth sharing with others. The camera uses laser to focus when taking photos, which leads to a faster and better focus, even in low light or when taking pictures of subjects of uniform colour.

The rear camera has a 13 megapixel sensor and an f/2.4 lens with OIS+ (optical image stabilization), a refined version of OIS. The front 2.1 megapixel camera is described as a “selfie camera” by LG. The result may lack crispiness, but it’s not bad by any standards. A really neat feature of the “selfie camera” is the new gesture control setup, which makes it possible to trigger a three-second countdown by holding the hand up and making a fist.

Battery

With all the horsepower under the hood, a strong battery is not just a luxury for G3, it’s a necessity. A 3,000mAh replaceable battery provides enough juice to keep the phone running an entire day without needing to top-up, with LTE switched off. It’s a huge battery, and offers decent performance on a phone that carries a strong processor, massive screen and QHD display.

It’s hard to say how the LG G3 will fare in the market. The paint is still rather fresh on the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8), but neither of the two phones match up to LG’s latest offering in terms of performance and display – bearing in mind Samsung’s Note 3 is designed to compete in this form factor. However, the G3’s design and price tag may keep it from asserting its dominance over its Android counterparts as well as other smartphones.

* Racheal Dane is a content marketer at www.stealthmate.com, and a technology writer. Follow her on Twitter on @RachealDane

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Nokia 9 PureView pioneers new camera tech

Nokia packed five camera-lenses into its latest high-end flagship, but does more lenses mean better pictures? BRYAN TURNER took it for a test run.

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Nokia is not new to the high-end mobile photography market. In 2012, it led Mobile World Congress (MWC) with its 41MP Nokia 808 PureView. This year, Nokia returned to MWC with its next PureView handset: the Nokia 9 PureView.

Instead of pushing megapixels, the mobile device maker chose to focus on intelligent exposure and sharp focus quality. It achieved this with a set of five cameras on the rear of the device – the most ever on the back of a handset. All of the lenses are 12MP f/1.8 lenses, and three of them are monochrome. The five lenses work in tandem to blend the best parts of a captured image. This is achieved through software image blending, which has been trained to know what’s good and bad about the image. 

Why monochrome? 

Lighting is dramatically improved with a monochrome sensor. About 2.9x more light can be captured with a monochrome sensor when compared to a conventional sensor. Huawei showed off the advantages of integrating a monochrome camera with the P9. 

Why three monochrome lenses? 

Detail can be captured at three different lighting settings, one to absorb a lot of light, one to absorb a little less light, and one to absorb very little light. These photos can then be blended into one great photo, without the user having to worry about setting the camera’s exposure manually.

The monochrome mode captures photos in crisp detail, while giving an authentic dramatic monochrome photography feel.

Only five lenses have been mentioned so far but the back of the device sports seven holes. The sixth hole is for the flash and the seventh is for the depth sensor. This sensor captures the depth of an image, so autofocus can be a little sharper and focus depth on bokeh images can be adjusted after the picture is taken. This adjustment feature is especially useful when a subject’s hair has been “bokeh’d out”.

Click here to read about the other features of the Nokia 9 PureView.

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Product Reviews

Bose Portable: quality at a price

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The Bose SoundDock Portable looks great and performs well, but SEAN BACHER finds the price doesn’t justify the better sound quality.

Since its inception in 1964, American-based audio specialist, Bose, has built a name synonymous with quality. Along with that, it has built a reputation of being more expensive than many of its competitors, but not deterring many from making the expensive investment. The mini sound speakers are quite often used in boardrooms, bars and restaurants around the world and offer crystal-clear sound that rivals most speakers twice their size.

Testament to the Bose sound quality is that it is used as the standard audio system in luxury cars like Audi, BMW and Mercedes, and according to Wikipedia, Bose products can be found in many military and NASA applications.

It is therefore not surprising to find Bose accessories compatible with smartphones. One example is the Bose SoundDock Portable. A portable docking station for iPhones and iPods that works off rechargeable batteries.

We put the Bose SoundDock Portable through the Gadget Five Question User.

1. Ease of use (including set-up)

Although the Bose SoundDock Portable, comes with instructions, they are not needed and in most cases, it will be ready to operate the minute it is removed from the box and an iPhone or iPod is plugged into it.

If the batteries on either the phone or docking station are flat though, the charger needs to be plugged into it before it can be used. You don’t need to wait for the batteries to charge fully before using it.

Bose has taken the minimalist approach with the SoundDock as on the right are two touch-sensitive Volume buttons and that’s it. No Power or other controls. The included remote is also very easy to use. It uses standard Play, Pause, Volume and Skip buttons, all well labelled.

The front of the docking station is made up of a silver grill, below which is the retractable iPhone dock. Although the casing around the connector is designed to accommodate an iPhone’s protective skin, it was not big enough to for the bumper I had on my phone, which meant I had to take the phone out of the case every time I wanted to plug it in.

On the plus side though, unlike many other portable docking stations, the Bose will charge a docked phone even if it is just running off battery power.

The Bose SoundDock Portable’s ease of use along with its elegant design cannot be faulted. But its dock connector counts against it.

Score: 18/20

2. General performance

The two front facing speakers offer crisp sounds and when the volume is cranked up all the way the SoundDock does not distort at all and is deafeningly loud.

At the rear is 3.5mm jack, allowing you to connect non-Apple phones, MP3 players and other audio equipment.

According to Bose, the 1 900mAh rechargeable battery pack will offer up to three hours of music at a maximum volume a different approach to rating battery life as most other vendors rate operating times at ‚”typical listening volumes‚”. I have been using the SoundDock on and off and not at full tilt for the past week without having to plug the mains adapter in yet.

This is however a good thing. Although the Bose SoundDock Portable is elegant and well made, Bose didn’t pay to much attention to the adaptor. It is a bit bigger than two cellphone chargers placed next to each other. It monopolises all the other electrical outlets, when plugged into the wall, meaning you need a dedicated plug for when you want to charge the battery.

The Bose SoundDock Portable provides a beautiful sound, its battery life is great, but the giant-sized charger is a complete let down.

Score: 12/20

3. Does it add value to your life?

Unlike many docking stations that are designed for bedside listening, the Bose SoundDock Portable is powerful enough to offer good sound in an average sized dining room or lounge.

Weighing in at just under three kilograms, it is not the lightest of them all, but the rear, recessed-handle makes carrying it fairly easy. (A carry bag is available as an optional extra.) Overall, it is a nice addition for a picnic or where an electrical outlet is not available.

18/20

4. Innovation

Sound docks have been around for years, and although the SoundDock offers superior sound, it offers nothing in the way of innovation. In fact, the lack of Bluetooth or any wireless connectivity for that matter is limiting.

13/20

5. Value for money

Much like the die-hard Apple Mac fans that will spend more on a product that performs much the same as cheaper alternatives, you get the same in the audio/visual world.

This becomes especially clear when reading the various reviews posted on the Internet. Reviewers either dislike the Bose SoundDock Portable due to it price, while others like it, saying the sound quality justifies the price.

But at R5 000 for a docking station I would have to agree with the former reviewers. R5 000 is ridiculously overpriced, even though it offers superior sound.

10/20

Conclusion

There is no faulting the Bose SoundDock Portable in terms of elegance and sound, but its clunky charger and high price are complete turnoffs.

Total score: 71%

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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