BlackBerry KEYone Smartphone Review – Hits the Right Buttons

BlackBerry KEYone Smartphone Review - Hits the Right Buttons

Good cell phones are a dime a dozen now a days. You have your big brands like Samsung, Apple, and Motorola, and you have your smaller brands like Huawei, OnePlus, and Honor. Brands come and go if they can’t keep up, even those that were once a pillar of the mobile space—like BlackBerry. BlackBerry fell on some hard times during the smartphone revolution, but they have been trying to claw their way back up. The BlackBerry KEYone is the company’s latest attempt at reclaiming its throne and for the most part, they succeed.

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Samsung DeX Review – Almost Living the Dream

Samsung DeX Review – Almost Living the Dream

For a long while now, the concept of an all-in-one computing platform was the ultimate dream of people on the go—to have a device you could plug into a multitude of displays the would offer a full working experience, and once done, pick it up and take it home. While it could be argued that this concept in itself is flawed, it did not stop Samsung from diving in and giving a valiant effort to make this a reality with DeX. While it does not fire on all cylinders, DeX is a marvel and one that any road warrior should consider for their mobile work setup.

DeX is a visually unremarkable puck shaped device that reveals a spot to plug in your phone when you push the top. Realistically, you would be forgiven for mistaking it for one of the many Qi chargers currently on the market. Yet if you have a Samsung S8, DeX becomes so much more than a charging dock.

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The back of the device hides all the needed ports you will use when setting up your mobile workstation. These include two USB ports, HDMI out, an Ethernet port, and a USB-C connector that is used for power. DeX really could not be simpler to set up. You connect the HDMI to some form of monitor, the USB ports are used to connect your pointing device and keyboard, and the USB-C plugs into the wall. Once it’s all hooked up, you simply drop your Samsung S8 into the dock and you are off to the races.

One notable gripe I had with DeX was the position the phone sits in the doc and the lack of any speaker out. If I am using DeX for media, the fact my speakers of the phone are facing down into the dock means I am obviously not getting the best audio. The simple ability to output the audio would have fixed this, but as it stands right now it limits the ability to enjoy media on the device.

Once you are all set up, you will finally find yourself in the DeX interface, and if you’ve ever used Windows you will feel right at home here. It is at its core an Android environment, but Samsung has done some real work to ensure DeX feels like a workstation rather than a phone.

Samsung DeX Review – Almost Living the Dream 5There is a full start-like menu, with a list of all the installed apps. There is the ability to run multiple apps at once, all in their own windows, and you can dive into the play store to find all the apps you may need. The beauty of DeX is that it works with most Android applications, so you will not be at a loss for things to run on the platform.

Now in testing, while most apps will run within DeX, not all work as intended. Most will work, but many just do not adapt to the different screen size or the fact they are not on a phone. This is not a deal breaker, but if you were hoping everything would run similar to a full-fledged desktop, you may be disappointed.

Games like Fallout Shelter, Hearthstone, and a range of others all worked and ran as you would hope, using the horsepower of the Samsung S8 to power through anything I threw at it. That being said, I could not get some games to run at all, with others causing random crashes and to not fully load. Judging by the newness of the platform, it may take some time to fully optimize apps to work in DeX, although as it is right now, most major games worked as intended.

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Even apps you think would run smoothly managed to face a few hiccups. Chrome and YouTube caused a series of slowdowns, one time fully quitting the application—nothing I would describe as earth-shattering bugs, and all in all I would say most things that worked on DeX worked very well.

The things DeX does, it does well. When using Chrome, I felt at home in the DeX environment. It has no issues loading web pages quickly, with all needed content (ads and rich media included). It was a pleasure to browse the web on the device and I managed a considerable amount of research work using DeX exclusively.

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Doing some light work was also not a problem, pulling up Google Docs, I wrote a series of articles using just the DeX system and the fact Google Docs feels like a native application within DeX, it was a joy to use. It was one of the better writing experiences I have had in a while, and the fact it was all done using a cellphone at the core is astounding.

DeX is a unique little device. On one hand, it is a fascinating piece of technology that blends mobile and desktop into one device. On the other hand, it is hard to see who it is built for. While DeX manages to transform your Samsung S8 into a mobile desktop, you will still need to have all aspects of the desktop setup ready to go. On the other hand, it was a joy to use and was a fun way to interact with a phone. Overall Samsung has done well with DeX, and as the platform matures it should be a good choice for people on the go that don’t want to use the desktop—but at $249 CAD it is not for everyone. DeX is a wonder of technology but will need a killer app or reason to use it before it can be recommended to everyone.

Huawei P10 (Phone) Review – A Solid Android Experience

Huawei P10 (Phone) Review - A Solid Android Experience

With so many smartphones currently for sale it can be hard for a particular model to stand out from the crowd, especially in the realm of flagships. With a slew of fantastic devices already out and new ones constantly added to the lineup of phones available, it takes something special to be noticed. This is what Huawei is attempting with their latest offering, the P10—a powerful device, with a slew of features. Aside from a few notable hiccups, this phone manages to be a enjoyable offering from Huawei.

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At first glance, you would be forgiven for mistaking the Huawei P10 for an iPhone 7. Especially with the dark grey variant, the phone feels heavily inspired from the Apple device—all the way to the two-tone back with darker camera area at the top of the device. Despite the similar look, the P10 feels solid and built with quality. From the all-metal exterior to the Gorilla Glass 5 and all the way to the fit and finish of the buttons, this is a device that looks impressive and does not disappoint.

In the hand, everything feels well thought out. The slightly indented area around the power button makes for easy on/off action of the device. The placement of the fingerprint scanner on the bottom of the front—while not anything revolutionary—works very well and is surprisingly fast. I never found it an issue to use, and often it will turn on almost instantly from the point of placing my finger on the device. There are some intelligent design choices in the device, and while I am not a fan of the overly similar Apple iPhone 7 aesthetic, it all works and feels like a great device in the hand.

The Huawei P10 manages to be startlingly thin, measuring only 7mm, and with a weight of 142g it was never a burden to use, even over long periods of time. The P10 we reviewed comes with 64GB storage, with the option of expanding it with an external SD card where you can add an additional 256GB if desired.

The fingerprint scanner also manages to double-up as advanced navigation controls, should you wish to avoid the onscreen Android navigation. Similar to some other single button phones such as the Zuk Z2 or the Apple iPhone, the different presses on the home button will let you to make the standard Android actions such as back, running apps, and homescreen. While not my ideal way to navigate the phone, in testing it worked well, and for anyone coming over from an iPhone it is a good way to help with the transition.

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The display of the P10 is a 5.1-inch, 1080p display that utilizes an IPS-NEO panel. In testing I found the panel to be beautiful to look at. Blacks feel very black (although not as black as you would find on AMOLED panels) and whites feel noticeably crisp. The brightness on the display was very vibrant, often requiring it to be at around 50% for it to be comfortable in everyday use, although I did push it higher to see while in direct sunlight. Viewing angles were also fantastic, and even off-angle viewing was a pleasure to use.

The P10 comes with Leica’s branding on its camera, and while I have to say this is one of the better phone cameras I have tried, it is sadly not the best. The phone comes equipped with a dual-lens setup on the back of the phone, a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor and a 12-megapixel RGB sensor. Huawei claim this dual setup will increase the bokeh effect along with much improved black and white photos, and they are not wrong. Overall I found the black and white photos the P10 produced to be stunning. Even in low light I never had a real issue. The biggest problem I faced was with low light colour images, and while they were not terrible, they do not stand up to the Apple iPhone 7 or the Samsung S8. Being limited to an f/stop of f/2.2 is a bit low, especially when compared to the likes of the f/1.7 on the S8 or the f/1.8 on the iPhone 7. That being said, the camera does its job, and with good lighting you will be able to take some truly stunning shots.

The rear camera also allows for some rather nice 4K video at 30fps, or if you are so inclined, 1080p video at 60fps. Both come out well, and if you are a blogger or someone who frequently need a camera for events you are at, the P10 will serve you well—although it can look shaky at times if you don’t have a form of stabilization such as a tripod.

For the selfie lovers out there, the P10 has not forgotten you. The phone comes with an 8-megapixel, f/1.9 front facing camera that performs well in low light and brightly lit spaces, although as with the rear camera, if you want the best photos possible, lighting is your friend.

Performance wise, the P10 is no slouch. At the core of the phone is the Kirin 960 chip paired with the Mali G71 MP8 GPU and 4GB of RAM, and the phone in all testing managed to show itself off as a flagship device. Though daily activity, gaming, use of social media and other apps, I never saw any noticeable slowdown or lag with the P10. It was a dream to use, and overall, fared far better than I expected.

In the standard series of CGMagazine benchmarks, the P10 faired rather well, scoring a 2,629 in the GPU focused 3DMark: Slingshot test, falling behind the Pixel that managed a 3,460. In our Geekbench 4 tests, the P10 managed a 1,866 in single core, along with a 5,691 in multi core testing, beating out the Google Pixel that achieved a 1520 and 4,100 respectively.

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When gaming, titles such as Mortal Kombat X, Riptide GP2, and Banner Saga 2 all ran flawlessly. I saw no noticeable drops in framerate though all testing, and while some of the games did take a few moments to start, once in, everything worked as one would hope. The P10 did get noticeably hot after longer gameplay sessions, although this is nothing I haven’t seen on other devices, and not to the point I would worry.

Call quality on the P10 was good, I experienced little to no call dropping, and even when in a car or bus, the phone managed to keep signal with no issues. The speakers for calls were good and can even take calls in loud, crowded areas such as E3—although some clarity can be lost at higher volumes.

The P10 comes with a Huawei’s Emotion UI 5.1 skinned Android 7.0 Nougat. While I don’t hate the Emotion UI, I also don’t see a point in today’s world of Android. Back in the day, Android was a rough experience, lacking some important features, but over the years, Google has worked hard to fix all these hard edges, building a very capable, fluid OS with a nice aesthetic. There is nothing overall offensive with what Emotion UI does, it just superfluous in today’s Android landscape.

For myself, the battery has quickly become one of the most important features of any flagship device. It is great to have a phone that can do all the things you can imagine, but if it can’t last a day out, you never get to experience these features. The P10 is serviceable in this regard, and while it cannot touch the Moto Z Play when it comes to battery longevity, it is serviceable for most people’s uses.

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Packing a 3,200mAh, non-removable battery, the P10 will last most people throughout a normal day’s use. Picking the phone off the charger at around 7AM I managed to have around 20% battery by the time 10PM rolled around. This is with standard use including some phone calls, a video or two on YouTube and music throughout the day. I did see a noticeable drop in battery performance when at a crowded event such as E3, where the phone would struggle to get service and I needed to check emails or other online services.

While the battery is not the best I have seen in modern Android phones, it manages to hold its own. If you are just planning to use the phone for standard tasks with some media and gaming, you should have no problem making it through a day with ease. Should you need to charge the P10, it comes equipped with Fast-Charging, so you should be fully topped up in an hour or so.

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The real question is, “does the Huawei P10 stand up when compared to other flagship smartphones currently on the market,” and that is a hard question. In some ways, the P10 is a fantastic device. It is built with care, has a fantastic screen, and comes equipped with cameras that can produce some stunning results. But it also makes some compromises in terms of a lower resolution display, the camera being a bit worse than what Samsung or Apple have on offer, and lacking some of the bells and whistles other phones have on offer. With that said, the Huawei P10 is an enjoyable device, and one that, unless you are trying to push to its limits, will handle anything you can throw at it. A solid piece of hardware and one that anyone would enjoy using as their daily phone.