iPhone X Review: A Precursor to Something Greater

iPhone X Review: A Precursor to Something Greater

It’s been ten years since Apple designed the original iPhone and redefined what a cellular phone was capable of. The device was an example of pure innovation. Not only did it shake up the market and set the new example for the competition to strive towards, it also changed the way users interacted with their phones. Ten years later and Apple aims to relive those glory days by accomplishing that same level of innovative success with the iPhone X. Starting at the always “affordable” price of $1319 CAD, you too can experience what Apple believes to be the next generational shift for smartphone technology.

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iPhone X (image credit: CGMagazine Staff)

Starting with design and aesthetics, the iPhone X looks stunning right out of the box. From the near bezel-less 5.8” screen to the polished stainless steel band, the phone feels and looks premium. The button layout remains the same as previous iPhone models, except for the recent loss of the signature home button. It may be a heartfelt loss for some, but this new retina screen and the gesture designed user interface are essential to execute Apple’s vision for the X. It will only be a matter of time before even the lightning port will be removed in exchange for only wireless charging and wireless peripherals.

The only questionable design choice I have with the iPhone X’s design is its glass back. Though Apple ensures that this full-glass design is made of the toughest material on the market, users still manage to drop their new devices and end up with cracked screens and fragile backplates. The professional look is also quickly ruined with fingerprint smudges after a couple days of use, which feels bothersome to maintain. I would have appreciated a matte material, akin to the Google Pixel 2 XL, that would have made the phone feel more sturdy and easy to grip. Instead, my suggestion is to purchase a quality protective case. It may break that sleek silhouette, but at least your heart won’t be pounding furiously when you see the phone hit the floor.

At the heart of the iPhone X is Apple’s A11 Bionic, the same six-core processor used in the recently release iPhone 8 and 8+, running on iOS 11. Comparable in performance to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, the real strength of the A11 Bionic is its high efficiency and neural engine. The neural engine is pretty unique, being powered off two cores and capable of machine-learning. Because this enables the iPhone X to learn through observation, key features like Face ID, AR applications and Animoji are able to be more accurate and consistent than similar features offered on the market today by the competition. To finish off the specs, the iPhone X also manage to pack in their latest Metal 2 software and a 30 per cent faster GPU to assure users they are playing console-quality mobile games and AR experiences at their full potential.

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iPhone X (image credit: CGMagazine Staff)

To put it simply, the Super Retina HD display on the iPhone X is the best display currently on the market. Sporting a 2436×1125 resolution, 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and 458ppi, this true HDR OLED panel delivers an unmatched viewing experience. Everything I watched looked sharp and crisp, but also vibrant and properly saturated due to the wide colour gamut. Compared to the controversial LG panel on the Google Pixel 2 XL, the iPhone X makes that phone look generations older in presentation quality. The implemented use of True Tone technology also takes advantage of one of the powerful light sensors located in the notch, which is capable of adjusting the white balance of the content to the colour temperature of the room so the user’s eyes won’t become strained. At the moment of writing this review Netflix and YouTube are the two primary video apps optimized for the X, with more optimized apps coming down the pipeline through future patches.

It’s time to address Face ID, the core feature of the iPhone X that can make or break the experience for users. Utilizing the True Depth camera, our faces now become our passwords to unlock our smartphones and buy products on the app store. I love the concept and the tech behind this feature, but sorely it did not meet my expectations. During my testing in various lighting situations and facial hair phases, Face ID worked properly about 80% of the time. While the number is still high, people paying top dollar for this device expect a frustration free experience. Similar to the introduction of fingerprint sensors, this is first generation Face ID and the kinks need to be worked out. Hopefully the feature can become more consistent through patches, but in most cases the problems of first generation products like this get worked out in new iterations of hardware.

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iPhone X (image credit: CGMagazine Staff)

Once the iPhone X is unlocked it’s time to learn how to properly navigate the device because it is completely different from any smartphone I’ve experienced. The new gesture design interface takes some time to get used to, but within an hour they felt intuitive to use. Swiping up to return home, swiping down on the right corner to bring up the control centre and double clicking the side button to pay for software are just a few examples of how Apple plans to design simplified ways for users to navigate their phones. I can’t say that these gesture were any faster than people using their home or back buttons to execute simple commands, but it was unique to experience and hard to break the habit of using the gestures once I switched back to my personal device.

Despite the iPhone X’s best efforts, the Google Pixel 2 remains the king for smartphone cameras in my eyes. The dual 12MP cameras on the iPhone X do have a couple more features and options to deliver a more diverse experience to users, but the image quality isn’t as detailed or vibrant. That doesn’t mean these cameras are a slouch though. Utilizing an all-new sensor and advanced ISP, courtesy of the A11 processor, the iPhone X still delivers a worthwhile experience to its users. Portrait mode is the perfect solution for people on the eternal quest to take the best selfie and the Apple-designed Video encoder enables videos to be recorded at 4K 60FPS for the smoothest possible footage.

Overall, I feel the iPhone X is the precursor to something greater. While the design and the ideas behind the phone feel like they should set the bar even higher, Apple’s execution on these innovative features leaves room for improvement. The infamous notch feels like it could easily be placed under the display within the next two generations of hardware and through the vast amount of user feedback, new gestures and other creative ways to interact with your phone look to be on the horizon. While it’s hard to justify the hefty price for first generation features, the iPhone X still manages to be one of the definitive smartphones of 2017 and is worth a recommendation for those that can afford it.

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iPhone X (image credit: CGMagazine Staff)

A retail version of this device reviewed was provided by the manufacturer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Cole Watson’s reviews of the Google Pixel 2 XL and Apple iMac 2017!

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Sony Xperia XZ1 (Smartphone) Review – Boringly Great

Sony Xperia XZ1 (Smartphone) Review – Boringly Great

Owning a phone is a necessity. Most of modern life is conducted through our phones and without them we would be lost. It goes without saying, that having a flagship phone is beneficial for a variety of reasons. When someone purchases a flagship phone, they expect the latest in technology and style. Sony released their latest flagship, the Sony Xperia XZ1. This phone is set to stand alongside the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S8, Apple’s iPhone X, and LG’s G6. Surprisingly, this phone has the ability to stand shoulder to shoulder with the big boys.

Let’s talk about the biggest elephant in the room, the bezels. You cannot take one look at the Sony Xperia XZ1 without seeing the massive black spaces above and below the screen. With more and more manufacturers moving towards having edge-to-edge screens on their devices, Sony made the interesting decision to keep two fairly large parts of their screen.

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Sony Xperia XZ1 (image credit: CGM Staff)

The rounded edges on the top and bottom of the phone lend it an interesting look but overall the phone does have some issues with holding it. At times, I found navigating the screen with the phone in just one hand was not the easiest and the phone has a tendency to lean towards me, threatening to fall out of my grasp.

The back of the phone is minimalistic. Featuring a smooth black metal finish, a slight bump from the camera, and the Xperia logo in the middle.

An interesting inclusion in the Sony Xperia XZ1 is the addition of a dedicated shutter button. It’s been a while since I’ve used a phone with a shutter button and the inclusion of it is welcome. Above the shutter button is the indented power button. It sits just beneath the edge of the phone and I never found myself having an issue with it. The button is also the fingerprint scanner for the device. The scanner works wonderfully and I was able to calibrate every finger that I felt I might have needed to use to unlock the phone.

Underneath all this exterior is your standard flagship phone for 2017. The Sony Xperia XZ1 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor which is the same chip as the one in the Galaxy S8 and the Pixel 2. Alongside the processor is 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. There is a MicroSD slot so that storage can be expanded up to 256GB.

Sony Xperia XZ1 (Smartphone) Review – Boringly Great 5
Sony Xperia XZ1 (image credit: CGM Staff)

Apps were responsive and snappy with the only slowdown being when an app would load an external ad. Outside of that one moment, the phone was more than able to handle anything we threw at it. Apps like Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp worked like a charm.

Included in the Sony Xperia XZ1 is the latest edition of the Android operating system, Oreo. Oreo works beautifully and is a welcome upgrade. The only issue is the amount of preinstalled apps that Sony includes. Many of these apps stand beside their Google cousins as though family members put them in a line. After removing or disabling a vast majority of the included apps, I felt right at home using this phone.

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Sony Xperia XZ1 (image credit: CGM Staff)

The camera on the Sony Xperia XZ1 is probably the second most lacking area on the phone, right after the design. While the rear camera is 19 megapixels and has an f/2.0 aperture, the camera struggled at times. The autofocus on the camera had trouble focusing on subjects at times resulting in blurry edges or details. The largest issue is that low-light photos were practically useless. These photos were often very dark and grainy.

Powering all of this is a relatively small 2,700mAh battery. While other users found the phone to lack in the power department, it survived me a whole day. This included days of GPS navigation, music playing, and video watching. As long as the phone was charged when I went to sleep it survived. Moments where it needed a charge, such as when a late night turns into an early morning, the support for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 meant that even a half hour would fill around 50% of the battery’s charge.

The price of the Sony Xperia XZ1 is also a large issue. Through only two select companies carry it here in Toronto, the phone is available unlocked for a $1000 CAD price tag. Outside of that, the best bet for purchasing this phone would be through Amazon for the price of $780 CAD. At that price, the phone has to compete with all the other major flagships. While it is still on the cheaper end, the phone doesn’t do anything that really separates it from all the other flagships.

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Sony Xperia XZ1 (image credit: CGM Staff)

At the end of the day, Sony has made a good flagship phone. It performs on par with any other flagships of this year and users who choose it will not be left out. The main issues with the Sony Xperia XZ1 are the ageing design and the useless lowlight camera. If you can get over the design, and the camera issue doesn’t bother you, then I can wholeheartedly recommend this phone. For anyone else, the other flagships are worth a glance if you are planning to spend this much on a phone.

A retail version of this device reviewed was provided by the manufacturer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.


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Google Pixel 2 XL Review: A Controversial Flagship

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: A Controversial Flagship

When the original Google Pixel released in 2016 it was received with open arms by critics and the public. While not the most original design on the market, the Google Pixel delivered an amazing camera, snappy interface, and a stable experience practically devoid of flaws. Unfortunately, the Pixel 2 XL’s launch didn’t share the same tale, with multiple controversies erupting over screen quality, burn-in issues and strange high-pitched sounds coming from the phone when next to the user’s ear. Google has responded quickly with multiple patches and even a worldwide warranty extension, but is it too little too late to sway opinions? CGMagazine might be late to the party, but let’s examine the Google Pixel 2 XL as a brand new user in late November.

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Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

Starting with design and specs, the Google Pixel 2 XL stands in line with the competition’s best, going with a near bezel-less design and packing in the industry standard of premium components. The phone screams professional from top to bottom thanks to the matte textured coating on the aluminum body. While the XL size of the Pixel 2 can feel intimidating to wield at the beginning, this texture makes the phone easy to handle even with one hand and provides an extra layer of grip that all phones of this form factor need.

Packed in the chassis of the Google Pixel 2 XL is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor running on Android 8.0 Oreo, 4GB of RAM, up to 128 GB of storage and an incredibly efficient 3520mAH battery. Compared to my previous smartphone reviews and my personal experience as an iPhone 6 user, the Google Pixel 2 XL is simply the best experience I’ve had to date. Users upgrading to this generation of smartphone hardware are in for a treat thanks to superb UI’s, powerful battery life, punchy speakers, extremely precise displays and amazing portable viewing experiences. While the Google Pixel 2 XL may not stand out from the pack in this regard, it still keeps up as a powerful contender worth your dollar.

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: A Controversial Flagship
Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

Time to address the display. Despite sharing the same internal specs, the display of the Pixel 2 and 2 XL are made by different manufacturers. In the case of the Pixel 2 XL, LG has developed a 6” Quad HD+ pOLED screen sporting an appealing 18:9 aspect ratio and a pixel density of 538 ppi. The largest complaint about this screen is that colours appeared lifeless, but after Google’s latest patches, the phone has received a new saturation option to boost colours by 10%. The update makes a substantial difference from the initial viewing experience, but unfortunately no update will ever be able to fix the blue-tint issues caused by the screens poor viewing angles.

While the display controversy is the Google Pixel 2 XL’s largest weakness, the Pixel still manages to retain its crown as the camera king. Sporting a 12.2MP back facing camera and an 8MP front facing camera, the Google Pixel 2 provides the photographer in all of us with a powerful tool for any type of memorable moment or occasion. The Pixel 2 XL accomplishes these feats thanks to its ability to gather more light in the sensor during both good and low light situations, while also utilizing a more accurate level of color balance to bring the picture to life. Users can also take full advantage of the Pixel 2 XL’s ability to record video at 4K resolution at 30FPS or 1080P at 60. To smoothen out those captured moments with a lot of rapid movement, the phone uses a mix of optical and electronic stabilization to capture the subject fluidly.

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Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

With the phone’s primary features covered, all that’s left to talk about is the rest of the package. Included in the box is a USB-C 3mm audio jack adapter, a USB-C to USB 2.0 adapter, and the charging cable and brick featuring fast charging technology. The unfortunate omission from this box is a set of headphones, but this isn’t much of a negative when a majority of users prefer to buy a better third party option that suits their personal tastes. The charger is the real highlight, quickly bringing the Google Pixel 2 XL back from 0% battery to full within an hour. Considering it took me almost two full days of use to drop the battery to less than 20%, I’d say this charging tech is just as efficient as the phone itself.

Despite the complaints at launch, the Google Pixel 2 Xl is undoubtedly one of the best smartphones of 2017. Where some companies sit idly by, Google is regaining their consumers’ lost trust by rolling out updates fast and improving the overall experience. Considering the wealth of competition offered by Samsung, Apple, and OnePlus, Google still manages to find an edge in this market with its impressive camera and video capabilities. It’s no longer the specs that will get users to buy a flagship smartphone, but their specializations that cater to the consumers’ individual needs.

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Google Pixel 2 XL (credit: CGM Staff)

A retail version of this device reviewed was provided by the manufacturer. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedures here.


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Sony Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra (Smartphone) Review – Far From the Best Experience

Sony Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra (Smartphone) Review – Far From the Best Experience

This year, Sony threw their hat into the ring of camera-focused smartphones with the Sony Xperia XA1 and the XA1 Ultra. After spending time with both phones, I can’t say that either one is all that great, even if the camera does live up to its expectations.

The Sony Xperia XA1 has a design that just doesn’t sit well with me. The rigid edges and its basic white model doesn’t help much. Compared to a lot of other phones on the market, the Sony Xperia XA1’s five-inch 720p feels small. Anyone who really cares about colour sharpness will likely be disappointed with this phone.

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Sony Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra (Smartphone) – image via CGMagazine

The Xperia XA1 Ultra fares slightly better, offering a similar design except with a larger 6-inch screen. Along with the larger screen, the Xperia XA1 Ultra also has a boosted resolution quality at 1080p. The unfortunate drawback of this enlarged screen is that the device becomes unwieldly unless you’re using both hands.

Both of the phones are incredibly thin and light, the XA1 weighing in at only 5.04 oz. while the XA1 Ultra weighs 6.63 oz.  Fragility does become a potential threat however, especially when dealing with the plastic backing used for both phones. Because the back is non-removable, slots for the SIM card and an optional microSD card of up to 256 GB can be found on the left side of the phone. I never ran into this issue myself but it’s worth noting that I have read about users experiencing chipping off the paint located around the SIM slot. On the right side of the devices are volume rockers along with the round power button, similar to other Xperia brand devices. One design choice that I really did like was the placement of a button on the lower right side of both phones, operating purely as a camera button. This helped to make the devices feel more like actual cameras when taking pictures in landscape mode.

Title: Sony Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra (Smartphone) Review – Far From the Best Experience 5
Sony Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra (Smartphone) – image via CGMagazine

Neither the Xperia XA1 nor the XA1 Ultra come out looking great when it comes to performance. While both phones run on Android 7.0 operating system, the XA1 runs on an Mediatek MT6757 Helio P20 chipset with only 3 GB worth of RAM. The XA1 Ultra makes use of the same chipset, using 4 GB RAM instead. The two phones sometimes struggle to run even the most basic of apps, lagging while browsing the Google Play Store and even worse, occasionally crashing. The sound qualities of both the XA1 and XA1 Ultra are also average at best. There’s only one speaker found at the base of each device and while you do get a clear enough sound, they aren’t very loud even at max volume.

As expected, the XA1 and XA1 Ultra’s main attractions are their 23 megapixel cameras. In addition to their great camera sensors for lighting and autofocus, both offer a manual setting which lets users customize their camera settings to meet their needs. The XA1 Ultra does have a better front facing camera, offering 16 megapixels as opposed to the XA1’s 8 megapixels as well as LED flash. Although taking pictures is a specialty of the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra, neither device offers much in the way of videos past being able to record at 1080p at 30 fps.

The topic of battery life is another area where the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra perform decently. The XA1’s 2300mAH battery is able to last a full day with average use. The XA1 Ultra’s 2700mAH battery runs out of juice just a bit faster, likely due to the higher resolution screen. Charging these devices doesn’t take too long either, fully charging in about an hour and a half.

With such great cameras, it’s a shame that the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra don’t even come close to that level of quality in other departments. Despite releasing in 2017, the phones already feel dated in today’s market, even going as far as lacking fingerprint scanners. With the only real quality of these devices being their camera specs, you’re likely better off just buying a new camera. Even among other budget smartphones, there are options that perform much better with cameras within the same range of quality as the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Find out why Remington thinks the Escapists 2 makes breaking out of prison fun, or why Sonic Mania earns its spot next to the titles released during Sonic’s golden era!

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CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Smartphone) – A Long Awaited Comeback

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Smartphone) - A Long Awaited Comeback

I’ve been a fan of the Samsung Galaxy S8 since its official reveal. I was able to try the device at several events before it was released and even then it seemed like a great phone. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 takes everything great about the Galaxy S8 and adds a number of its own original features, successfully repairing the damaged reputation caused by the explosive Note 7.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Smartphone) – images via CGMagazine.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a great looking phone. It borrows its sleek design from the Galaxy S8 but features a larger 6.3 inch screen. The newly introduced InfinityEdge feature also makes a return with the Note 8, giving the phone ultra-thin, barely noticeable bezels. The Note 8 has a resolution of 1440 x 2960 pixels, which makes images appear extremely nice on the Super AMOLED screen. Despite its larger size, the Note 8 is still surprisingly light and should be able to fit in just about anyone’s pocket. The Note 8 is coated in Corning Gorilla Glass 5. While this means it isn’t the most fragile phone out there, I still wouldn’t risk dropping it. My only real problem with the Note 8’s design is that although the Midnight Black colour looks great, fingerprints and smudges will stand out on the back of the phone.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Smartphone) – images via CGMagazine.

One of the biggest features of the Note 8 is the included S Pen. Located at the bottom of the device, this stylus adds a number of unique features to this phone. Pulling out the S Pen while the phone is locked turns the phone into an electronic notepad for you to write and draw on. The S Pen can be used for much more than that though. Aside from the obvious fact that it makes selecting and highlighting things on the phone easier to do, a shortcut wheel will appear when the stylus is in use to give you access to some of its features. It can even be used to create animated. GIFs. The S Pen is comfortable to use and allows for more precision than I usually find with other styluses. I also appreciate the fact that you can hear a distinct click when you slide the S Pen back into its little nook.

There’s a lot of power behind the Note 8. Running on Android’s 7.1 OS, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 uses a Qualcomm MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 chipset. This means there won’t be any performance issues when it comes to running any of the latest apps or games. With 6 GB of RAM, the phone is also great at switching between apps seamlessly or even running multiple apps at the same time with its split screen functionality. The Note 8 Also allows for storage space of up to 256 GB via microSD. Another important feature of the Note 8 is its inclusion of Bixby, Samsung’s latest AI assistant. The more familiar you are with Samsung branded apps, the more useful you’ll find Bixby when it comes to taking notes or scheduling events.  While Bixby is functional, it doesn’t do much more than any other AI assistant does and with Google’s own AI present on the device, I almost found it redundant to have both.

The Note 8 has a great 12-megapixel dual-camera. The main camera is especially good when it comes to taking moving pictures thanks to its optical image stabilisation feature. The camera also features a pro mode which allows you to make all sorts of customizations in order to get that perfect shot. Suffice to say, if you’re only planning on taking photos for Instagram or any other social media, the Note 8 will go above and beyond your expectations. Other features include autofocus, 2x optical zoom, dual-LED and of course, flash. The Note 8 is also able to capture 1080p video at 60 FPS and even slow-motion video at 720p.

The battery life of the Note 8 is its weakest point. Using default power settings, the Note 8’s 3300mAh battery was barely able to make it through the day with regular use. Power optimization settings do help but not by much, giving the phone an extra few hours of battery life. Unlike with most phones, an important question when it comes to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is whether or not it’s safe to use. As of now, there haven’t been any reports of the Note 8’s battery exploding and during my time with it everything was fine. Samsung has gone through a number of safety checks to ensure that the battery of this model isn’t a repeat of the one before it.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Smartphone) – images via CGMagazine.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 excels in nearly every area. The phone performs great, the camera is amazing, and the S Pen proved to be far less of a gimmick than most people would expect. The only problems with the device are the weak battery and the fact that Samsung is charging over a grand for it. If you’re stuck between the Note 8 and the Galaxy S8+, I’d say it all comes down to whether or not you’d actually use the S Pen. In any case, The Note 8 proves to be one of Samsung’s finest devices available.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Find out why Remington thinks the Escapists 2 makes breaking out of prison fun, or why Sonic Mania earns its spot next to the titles released during Sonic’s golden era!

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CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

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.

Read moreBlackBerry KEYone Smartphone Review – Hits the Right Buttons

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.