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Product Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini – small and fierce

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The Samsung Galaxy S3 is a run-away success, and now Samsung has extended its range with the S3 Mini. Is it just a smaller version of the S3? LIRON SEGEV, AKA the Techie Guy, finds out.

The S3 Mini looks identical to its larger S3 brother. You have to look closely to realise it is a smaller phone it even has the same high end marble white chassis the S3 has.

But, in your hand you will notice that it is indeed smaller as it measures in at 121.55 x 63 x 9.85 mm, and weighs 111.5 grams.

It is small enough that your fingers don’t have to do that hop-skip-and-jump to get to various sides of the screen that we have become accustomed to.

The perimeter layout is as we have come to expect from Samsung phones. It has the MicroUSB slot at the bottom and the same Home button and the soft Back & Menu buttons. On the right is the Power button, on the top is the headphone jack and on the left is a Volume rocker. The microSD slot is under the battery (so no popping that SD card in and out without switching the phone off first).

The Galaxy Mini is powered by a dual core 1GHz CPU and comes pre-installed with the Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean operating system.

Turn the phone over, and behind the cover is the removable battery. This might seem trivial, but its becoming more important as people have stated to carry two batteries if they know they will have a busy day on their phone. The Samsung Mini uses a standard SIM not a microSIM or nanoSIM used in most other new phones.

Getting around the phone

The Jelly Bean operating system is day to use and the 4.0‚” WVGA Super AMOLED screen is bright enough to see in daylight. Swipe down from the top and the Drawer opens with access to settings, network options, GPS, Bluetooth and a range of other configuration options.

To make a phone call, tap on the Phone Icon and the dialer opens up where you can access your contacts or start dialing.

Start typing the number you want to call and it instantly starts to make suggestions of all the contacts that have those numbers.

Finally, Samsung has not forgotten to include the ‚”turn the phone over to reject an incoming call‚” feature.

Using the Internet

These days, using the Internet is just as important (if not more) as making a call. The Galaxy S3 mini has all the connectivity you could want: HSPA 14.4/5.76 900/1900/2100 and EDGE/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900. It also connects to WiFi so no costs are incurred for those big downloads.

Because the Galaxy S3 Mini uses an Android operating system, you are able to install Chrome. Chrome logs into your Google account and instantly gives you access to your Google bookmarks, history and saved pages – letting you browse them offline.

The Camera

What self respecting Mobile Ninja doesn’t use their phone to share with the world everything they see?

The Galaxy S3 Mini has two cameras. A 5MP with LED Flash at the back and a VGA camera in the front.

It comes with most of the settings that the S3 has including Buddy photos share and Smile shot.

The quality of the pics are not on S3 8 MP scale, but are not bad at all. I especially like the fact tat you can place the focus on a particular part of the screen and not just the middle and the flash really does its job well.

Yes there are contrast issues between light and dark and some will find it an irritation, but for what I need and for what most people need on a day to day basis, this is perfect.

How’s the sound?

I downloaded my music collection onto the S3 Mini which was transferred with Kies with no problem. As soon as I plugged my headphones in, I noticed that the notification bar pops open with all the pre-installed media related apps including Music Player, Video Player, Video Hub, FM Radio, YouTube. This is pretty cool as you can instantly access these from one location.

Video Playback

The S3 Mini has the same features for video playback at the S3 which is just brilliant.

I always liked the pop-up player that you can view any video clip and overlay that on top of anything else that you are working with without missing a single second.

The Battery Power

With all these cool features, I was surprised to see that I managed to last an entire day of heavy usage. The main drain of the battery is usually the display assuming that since the screen is smaller along with Samsung’s battery-saving techniques, these all helps to keep the phone going.

Even when playing high intensity graphic games, the Galaxy S3 Mini just kept on going.

So in Summary

If you like the look and feel of the original Galaxy S3, then you will love the design and feel of the Galaxy S3 Mini.

The phone easily slips into your shirt pocket and you are are able to handle fully with one hand.

The Galaxy S III Mini is available at recommended retail prices starting at R3 999 for the 8GB version. It is also available on the Cell C website on contract for R279 pm over two years.

* Liron Segev is also known as The Techie Guy. You can read his blog at www.thetechieguy.com or follow him on Twitter on @Liron_Segev

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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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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