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Nokia Lumia 800 ‚ a killer phone

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The Lumia 800 looks like the N9, but is the first Nokia smartphone to run Windows Phone 7.5. SEAN BACHER finds there are major ‚ and encouraging ‚ differences.

When Nokia released the N9 last year, it repositioned itself as a serious competitor in the smartphone market once more. This had a lot to do with the in-house developed, Linux-based MeeGo operating system. The OS represented a complete shift away from the Symbian operating system that Nokia had used on all its previous smartphone handsets.

But the MeeGo operating system’s life was very limited. Soon after the launch of the N9, Nokia announced that all future handsets would be based on the Microsoft Windows Phone operating system.

The first of this new generation of phone is the Lumia 800, which runs the Mango or Windows Phone 7.5 OS. But, while the phone uses a completely different OS, the Lumia 800 looks almost identical to the N9.

This is significant at Gadget, because the N9 scored an unusually high 80% in the Gadget Ten Question Task Test (click here to read the review), putting it marginally ahead of the iPhone 4S (click here to read the review). How does the Lumia 800 compare?

1. General look and feel (aesthetic judgement, differentiation in look and feel)

The Lumia 800 looks nearly the same as the N9. It uses the same unibody design, meaning there are no removable batteries or battery flaps, and the shell is finished with curved edges. Unfortunately, it still uses the flimsy flap that covers the mini USB/charging port.

There are one or two changes though. The most obvious is colour. The Lumia 800 is available in bright pink, blue or black, while the N9 is available only in black. In addition to the Power and volume controls on the right-hand side of the phone, the Lumia 800 also has a dedicated camera button.

If you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty, the Lumia 800 weighs 142 grams, making it slightly heavier than the N9, which comes in at 135 grams.

Overall, like the N9, the Lumia 800 looks and feels solid and strikes you as the type of phone that will handle the odd drop ‚ unlike, for example, the iPhone.

8/10

2. Slippability (Weight and size, ability to slip into a pocket unnoticed)

The Lumia 800 uses a 3.7‚ AMOLED screen, compared to the N9’s 3.9‚ screen. Why a smaller screen if the phone has the same dimensions? Blame Windows Phone OS: The three virtual control buttons below the Lumia 800’s screen make the difference. It will, however, be hard to notice the actual difference in screen size, even when you have both of them lying next to each other.

The Lumia 800, like the N9, won’t exactly slip into your pocket unnoticed, but it is compact enough to fit there comfortably. Its smooth edges also give the phone a great feeling when you’re holding it, and the bright colours may lead to the phone to being in carried in a hand or being displayed on a coffee table more often than it hiding in a pocket.

The physical dimensions are exactly the same as the Nokia N9, but the Lumia 800 is still a little too heavy for a cutting edge smartphone.

7/10

3. General performance (speed, responsiveness, multi-tasking)

The Lumia 800 uses a 1.4Ghz Qualcomm processor, which is coupled with 16GB of internal storage and only 512Mb of RAM. The RAM falls rather short when compared to other smartphones, where the standard is 1GB, but the processor is on a par and makes up for the RAM. The N9 uses 1GB or RAM but uses a slower 1Ghz Cortex A8 CPU. Overall performance was great. Angry Birds launched in no time and birds were soaring through the air glitch-free. More processor-intensive apps ran fine too, even with an arsenal of apps open in the background.

This seamed a bit strange, as I thought that I would eventually exhaust the meagre 512MB of RAM and start getting some warnings about low memory, or at least see a performance drop. But it turns out that Windows Phone 7.5 does not support true multi-tasking. Yes, music and other apps will run in the background but, once you hold down the virtual Back button, you find only a few applications remain in the memory. The others seem to ‚disappear‚ from the list, and the only way to get them back is to restart them. I also found that I couldn’t manage open applications like I would on Android phones: I could switch from app to app, but had no way to force an application to close.

Even though every task ran effortlessly on the 512MB of RAM in the phone, the limited multitasking ability offered Windows Phone 7.5 is a slight disappointment.

8/10

4. Life as we know it (How’s the battery life?)

Nokia’s operating system choice has been questionable in the past, but it has always been constant when squeezing the maximum amount of operating time out of the battery ‚ and the Lumia 800 is no different.

The Lumia 800 uses the same 1 450mAh battery as the N9 but, according to Nokia, the Lumia 800 offers 13 hours of talk time, compared to 11 hours on the N9. Although I didn’t talk on the Lumia 800 for 13 hours, I used it for taking calls, checking Twitter and Facebook, performed a few Internet searches and played games on it for a full two days before I was warned that I was running low on battery power. Even then, though, the battery management app popped up and asked me if I wanted to tweak the phone to get even more life from the battery.

Once again, Nokia’s battery life ‚ and management ‚ is unrivaled. This feature alone puts the phone in a different league.

10/10

5. Vision of the future (picture, video and browsing quality)

Located at the back of the phone is an 8MP Carls Zeiss camera with a dual-LED flash. The camera is able to capture stills at a maximum resolution of 3264X2448 pixels ‚ exactly the same as the Nokia N9. However, the addition of a dedicated camera button really does enhance the picture experience, as taking quick snaps doesn’t require taking the phone out of stand-by mode, locating the camera app and then activating it. Simply press the Camera button and snap away.

Camera features include geo-tagging, auto-focus and a range of other features that take normal happy snaps to a new level. Unfortunately, the lack of a pinch-zoom interface was a let-down: clicking on the zoom-in and zoom-out buttons took too much time.

The Lumia 800 lacks a front facing camera, so no video conferencing, unlike the N9.

Videos are displayed in vivid colour and have a great contrast ratio on the AMOLED screen. This, combined with the good battery life even when using video, are a big bonus.

8/10

6. Talk to me (quality of audio)

At the bottom of the phone is a mono speaker, which is great for speaker calls or listening to the odd song, but there are numerous smartphones with better-made built-in speakers. The 3.5mm headphone jack will offer a far better sound experience, as this is where Dolby’s Mobile Sound Enhancement feature kicks in.

Overall, not the greatest combination of sound features on a phone, but enough to keep most users satisfied.

7/10

7. Message in a bottle (range, speed and efficiency of messaging solutions)

With the Nokia Lumia 800 using Windows Phone 7.5, most applications are tightly integrated with a Microsoft Live account, much as all Android devices are linked to a Google account. This means, before you can properly start using the included messaging applications like Twitter or Facebook, you need to register or sign in to a Microsoft Live account. That said, the included Twitter and other social media accounts are less than ideal. They are all included in one option labelled ‚Me‚ . Clicking on it brings all the feeds together on one screen, but with little differentiation, making it confusing when trying to work out which feed supplied which message. This is especially problematic when replying, not knowing where the post will be shown.

On the other hand, the Microsoft Live account also gives you access to Xbox Live games, a market from where you can buy Xbox Live and other games. It also provides access to the Windows Phone Marketplace, from where you can download 3rd party social media apps and keep the feeds separate.

Speaking of the Windows Phone Marketplace, there is less of an app variety when compared with more mature online stores like the Android Marketplace or Apple App Store. Free versions of commercial apps are in short supply: for example, the full version of Angry Birds costs R24, although a free trial version is available from the Windows Phone Marketplace, whereas the equivalent is free for other platforms.

As the Windows Phone operating system becomes more popular, however, the number of apps available will increase quickly.

But that shouldn’t have to be the workaround to make up for the confusing integration of social feeds. The N9 didn’t score too favourably here either, but its improved use of the Ovi Store counted in its favour.

6/10

8. Keep control (How effective are hardware and software controls?)

In addition to the four hardware control buttons, the Lumia 800 uses three software buttons located below the screen. The Back button works like a Back button on an Internet browser and, when held down, shows all open applications.

The Windows button allows for a quick return to the phone’s home screen, no matter what application is open.

The third button is a Search option, which can be accessed from any application. When tapped, it launches the phone’s Internet browser, with Bing as the default search engine.

The addition of the three software buttons makes navigating and operating the phone far easier and less time consuming.

8/10

9. The new new (innovations, unique features)

Windows Phone 7.5 offers a user interface that is quite different to anything on Android or iOS. It uses Live tiles, which can be thought of as square widgets (applications that automatically update themselves). The Live tiles are continually changing in accordance with what they represent. For instance, the Calendar Tile changes with the date ‚ nothing new there, but it also displays upcoming appointments. The People Tile displays images of the people ‚active‚ in the contacts folder, either on a Gmail or Microsoft Live account. A click on the tile will launch that application and allow for a more in-depth view.

Unfortunately, besides changing the location of the tile (you can move it up or down, or off the home screen), and changing colours or automatic updating, there is not much else Windows Phone offers in the way of customisation at this stage.

On the plus side ‚ and this is a massive plus – the Lumia 800 includes Windows Office 365, which in turn gives direct access to a SkyDrive account, allowing for files to be saved in the cloud.

Office 365 opens up an entirely new collaboration world. Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents can be created, viewed and edited directly on the Lumia 800, with the changes or additions being automatically updated and ready for any other colleagues to review from their Windows Office 365 account. This knocks flat any equivalent ion the iOS.

Although the new interface does seem a bit confusing at first, it won’t take long to figure out how to operate it properly. The settings, application management and phone customisation options are all easy to locate.

The addition Windows Office 365, with its seamless integration and collaboration tools, are a huge bonus and will benefit any organisation with more than one employee.

9/10

10. The wallet test (Is it competitively priced?)

The Lumia 800 was launched late last month, and is available from all Vodacom outlets nationwide. It costs R279 per month on a Business Call Contract and includes 100MB of data. At the time of publishing, the N9 was available from Vodacom on the same contract for R299.

The Lumia 800 is very well priced and is a viable alternative to many of the Android smartphones available in South Africa.

9/10

Total score: 84/100 (the best a phone has scored so far)

Conclusion

Overall, the Lumia 800 works well, is superbly designed and offers a new, yet uncomplicated user interface. Nokia has come a long way from its archaic Symbian operating system, and the Windows Phone 7.5 is in some cases even easier to use than the Nokia N9 running MeeGo.

In the end, the combination of battery life, Office 365 and competitive pricing makes this a killer phone.

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

email this to a friendnttnntt printer friendly version

Just to clear up some stuff…Windows Phone does support multitasking. If the tasks arent showing on the list, it means that they have been tombstoned and if you press back enough you will get to them. (You will see it says “Resuming…””) This is because they are removed from memory so other apps can use it. A total of 5 apps can be present in memory. Also, to close an app just press back from its main menu screen…it closes it. No need for pesky task managers like Android…it handles it so the user doesnt need to worry about it 🙂

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Featured

Hit the road with high-tech night light for bikes

Cyclists need effective lighting by night and day, writes JOEL DORFAN, in his test ride of the latest in high-tech from Fenix

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Since 2004, Fenix Light has been manufacturing quality lights ranging from flashlights and headlamps to lanterns and bike lights.

There are many folks who ride their bicycles at night for various reasons. Whether on-road or off-road, there is always the need to see the path ahead of you. During the day, it’s wise to have a really bright strobe light so others around you can see you coming. 

Enter the BC21R V2.0.

The original 880 lumen BC21R was released some years ago. Besides the main light, it also had two red lights at the side. However, there were several complaints about this older version. The main ones were:

  • Plastic construction – does not dissipate heat causing the light output to step down;
  • Rubber mount – stretches and perishes over time;
  • No helmet mount.

With the launch of the new light, now called the BC21R V2.0, the folks at Fenix have kept all of the good features and added a bunch more, as well as remedying all of the complaints from the original. In a nutshell, it offers:

  • 1000 lumen output
  • Removable 18650 LiIion battery
  • Built in USB Type-C charging port
  • Dual Distance Beam System
  • Battery level indication and low-voltage warning
  • All-metal heat fin; IP66 rated protection
  • Quick-release bike mount compatible with Fenix bicycle light helmet mount

The increase from 880 to 1000 lumens means that there is now better coverage of the road ahead. The dual distance beam system means that the areas both near and far are illuminated. They do this by graduating the top half of the front lens that refracts some of the light down towards the front wheel, allowing the rest of the light to illuminate the roadway.

When you do not need all 1000 lumens, sequential taps of the on/off switch will cycle through the different output settings of low, medium, high and turbo. In any of these modes, a double tap of the switch will put the light into strobe (alternating high and low output) mode. On a fully charged battery, runtime on Turbo is published as being 2 hours, and on low at 50 hours. 

Many lights today are sealed units. Once the battery stops taking a charge, the light would have to be discarded. The removable battery means that, once it reaches end of life ,it’s a simple matter of inserting a new 18650 battery. Also, should you be on a really long ride and find that the battery starts going flat, you could stop along the way and swap out the battery for either another fully charged one or two CR123 batteries. 

At any time, you can tap the on/off button, which will light up an indicator to tell you the current state of charge of the battery. This same indicator will flash red when it’s time to recharge the battery.

To prevent damage to the LED light source, temperatures are monitored and, if the light gets too hot, the output is reduced. This is not ideal when you are out on a ride on a hot evening. By changing the head from plastic to metal with cooling fins, however, the light will now remain cooler, allowing for full output for longer periods.

Instead of a stretchy plastic mount like on the older model, Fenix has now gone with a proper clamp type mount. This is secured to the handle bars using a thumb screw; and then there is a quick release that allows the light to be attached or removed from the clamp with ease. Two different-sized rubber inserts for the clamp ensure a good fit on different diameter handle bars.

A bonus of this type of quick release mechanism is that the light is now compatible with the Fenix helmet mount should one wish to mount it there. Also, should you wish to use the BC21R V2.0 as a handheld flashlight or to stop it being stolen, no tools are required to remove it from either the bike or helmet mount.

So how does the BC21R V2.0 perform in real life?

It puts out a very concentrated spot-like type beam optimised for distance. The lens setup ensures that most of the light is below the horizon where it needs to be, which also makes sure that it does not blind oncoming motorists. 

The light will start getting warm to the touch when stationary or when hand held. However, when cycling, the cool air passing over the finned head does keep the light cooler.

Being a single 18650 battery light, a ride of longer than about 90 minutes will see the light starting to reduce output. It’s the tradeoff of size vs run time. Therefore make sure that, if you’re going to need the full 1000 lumen output for an extended period, to carry a spare battery with you.

The older model cost $75, and the good news is that Fenix appears to have maintained this price even with all of the extra features of the V2.0 model. This places the BC21R V2.0 in the mid- to high-range of  single battery lights. Given the features and multi-use applications it’s pretty good value for money.

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Product of the Day

Hisense adds AI-cameras to handsets

Hisense has entered the AI-camera space with the Infinity H30, aimed at the mid-range market. BRYAN TURNER tests the new camera technology.

Click below to read the review.

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While many know Hisense for its TVs and appliances, it has an impressive lineup of smartphones. Its latest Infinity H30 smartphone packs a serious punch in the mid-range market, including features like a low-bezel screen and AI camera.

Out the box, the phone comes with the usual charger, charging cable and earphones. There is a surprise in the box: a screen protector and a clear case. A nice value-add to the already affordable smartphone.  

The polycarbonate plastic body feels premium, especially for a device in this price range. It has a colour changing body, depending on the angle at which it is held. The colour of the device we reviewed is called Ice Blue, and shimmers in darker and lighter blues. Aesthetically, this is a big win for Hisense.

The 6.5″ screen is a narrow-bezelled FHD+ display with good colour replication. Hisense is known for creating colour-accurate displays and it’s good to see it continue this legacy in its smartphones. The shape of the display is interesting, taking some design notes from Huawei’s Dewdrop display with what Hisense calls the “U-Infinity Display”. It makes the phone look really good. 

On the rear of the phone, one finds a dual-camera setup with fingerprint sensor. On the bottom of the phone, there is a speaker, a USB Type-C Port and a headphone jack. The speaker’s placement on the bottom isn’t optimal and the sound is muffled if one accidentally covers the single speaker area.

The 4,530mAh non-removable battery is very capable, providing a good 12 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and playing an online game every hour) until it reaches 20%. The battery capacity isn’t the only power feature of the device; it runs on the latest Android Pie operating system, which includes AI power-saving software measures to keep background apps from using battery.

It is a little disappointing to see the device came with some pre-installed games. Fortunately, one can uninstall them. Hisense makes up for this by issuing Android updates and security patches as the come out. This, coupled with the MediaTek Octa Core processor, provides a good user experience for playing games and multi-tasking.

The H30 has a whopping 128GB of on-board storage, and it can be expanded even more with a MicroSD card. The 4G-LTE capabilities are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload in an area with good cell service.

The 20+2MP rear camera configuration is good at taking shots on Auto mode, but pictures can be better after figuring out all the camera modes available. There is a professional mode for those who want to be extra creative with their photography. It also includes a baby mode, which plays various noises to make a baby look at the phone for a better picture. The AI mode can be enabled to make full use of the processor in the device, and fif the camera mode to be selected based on scenes photographed. 

The 20MP front camera performs equally as well. This camera is the reason for the U-like shape at the top of the screen. The camera app has beauty-face filters, for those wanting a slimmer face or smoother skin.

Overall, the Infinity H30 is a prime example of a good phone in an affordable price range.  The camera is very capable, and the AI processing helps what would otherwise be a regular camera. The aesthetically pleasing colour saves the day, and makes this mid-range device look like a high-end flagship. The device is retailing for R5,499 from most major carriers.

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