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19Feb/120

Meizu MX Review

While the Meizu electronics brand isn’t that well known outside of China at the moment, they’re certainly a brand to be reckoned with in the smartphone market, and if the Meizu MX is any indication, they’ll be a whole lot more well known in the very near future. The device you see before you is a high-end Android device made for release in China only, but because of its 2G and 3G network bands, we’re able to use it here in the USA with a micro SIM card from T-Mobile or AT&T, whichever we so choose to pop in. Because of this, the review of this device makes for a rather interesting exercise in testing Meizu on a global scale: can this MX smartphone stand up to the rest of the Android devices here in the USA?

This device is currently available in China and can readily be purchased through carriers and resellers of hardware if you’re in the area. Should you want to use this device in the United States, you’ll want to make sure it’s set for English right out of the box or you may have a bit of trouble (provided you aren’t able to read Mandarin) working with this device’s many interfaces – each of them available in several languages, thus is the power of Android. What you receive here in this unique handset is a high-end experience in both a unique piece of hardware and a unique custom-made user interface working over Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread – with a planned upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich sometime in the future.

Hardware

Though there was a very early report of a chipped case in one of the first review models that was released, Meizu has since replaced the back cover with a more substantial back battery cover – you wouldn’t know the difference unless you had both covers in your hands, and even then the differences are next to impossible to spot. So we’re fully confident now that the phone is solid all the way through. The way the back cover attaches to the bulk of the device is unique in that it clips on throughout but has two metal pins that are spring loaded at the bottom of the phone. There’s no chance this back cover is coming off unless you want it to come off, I can say that with confidence.

The white back and black front of the device give it a lovely two-tone look that’s rare in the market today, with a set of light-up arrangement-switching lights surrounding the center Home button – which sticks outward instead of the usual inward we see with such smartphones as the iPhone. The Home button does just that, brings you back to your main home screen from whatever app you’re in, and is also able to wake the device up. Because the button is out rather than in, it poses the risk of you hitting it often when you do no intend to – more than likely we’re seeing reduced battery time because it’s on in our pocket so very often unintentionally.

The lights on either side of the Home button are capacitive and can represent a number of different functions. When you see three lights in a row, you know that it’s a menu button. When you see three lights in a triangle, you know that it’s a back button. When you see one light, you know that your device is awake, but that the button will not do anything except give you haptic feedback. When the phone is asleep, these light-up buttons serve as notification lights, “breathing” in and out whenever you get a notification – be it for a message, an email, or whatever else you’ve got hooked up to give you notifications all the live long day.

The front panel is some sort of unnamed reinforced glass over a 4-inch 960 x 640 pixel resolution ASV display (aka Advanced Super View TFT LCD). This display has a 288 ppi pixel density – this compares with the 330 ppi pixel density of the iPhone 4/4S and the 316 ppi pixel density of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Note that though these displays cannot be directly compared with pixels per inch alone, it is interesting to see how close to one another they are simply based on that one count. Set them next to one another and you’ll be able to tell the difference – alone they’re all more than sharp enough for any discerning smartphone lover.

Software

This device runs on Android 3.5 Gingerbread with Meizu’s custom user interface “Flyme” running on top. You’ll get a good look at how this version of Android works in comparison to both Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and iOS 5.0 on the iPhone 4S in this hands-on video:

There’s another China-based app store here that’s not affiliated with Google but, strangely enough, can view your downloads folder and tell you which apps you’ve downloaded for the official Android Market – which is also on the device out of the box. Take a peek at a few other screenshots of modified applications included in this build in the gallery below, but note most what the Music application looks like here. There’s an equalizer in there! It works pretty good too, for what it is. It’s no ultra-advanced set of modifications for your tunes, but it does adjust well enough for the headphones, built-in speakers, or speaker jack you’ll be using.

Also feel free to take a glance at a set of benchmark tests done on the phone here, and note that this is the early-release developer/reviewers edition of the device, it appearing in forums across the web as having benchmarks just about 85% as good as the final release of the device. This device is, again, already available in China now. SunSpider is run on the stock web browser with T-Mobile 3G:

Camera

The camera interface you can also take a peek at in the hands-on video above, it having a decent amount of ability to take modified photos right out of the box, but not having the most extensive set of effects out of the box. Both videos and photos are at least decent and the interface created by Meizu for Flymm functions, but does have some oddities we’re not a big fan of. One example is once a photo is taken, previewing the image displays a cropped image – you’ve got to pinch to zoom out to see the full image. Have a peek at some 8 megapixel photos and a 1080p video here to make your own judgements:

The video above shows how terrible the camera can be in a dark environment, then this next video comes from someone in China using the final version of the device (and the camera) on a relatively clear day on a road. It should be pretty clear here that this camera can create big range of qualities in video.

Photos on the other hand are pretty darn nice. Check these examples out:

Battery and Phone Quality

The battery inside this device lasted us about 8 hours with medium use, needing just one charge a day if you’ve not been playing video all day. Have a peek at this indicator of how long the device will last if you’re only using it for email, a map or two, and photography: more than a day, easy.

Wrap-Up

This device appears more than ready to take on the top-tier market in China, but certainly isn’t something you’ll want to pay several hundred dollars to import here to the United States. It works with micro SIM cards from T-Mobile and AT&T, but the coverage limitations and the specs which are essentially equal to phones such as the Galaxy S II make this a device you’ll be better to pick up if you actually live in China.

The software is interesting, but does not seem to offer any large benefits over iOS or Android besides the fact that it looks just a bit different. It essentially functions the same as Android, doesn’t have an apps drawer so reminds one of iOS, and sits at about equal or a little less powerful a device on the whole mainly because of the software. This is certainly Meizu’s best effort to date, and if you do get the chance to play around with one, take it: it’s a sign of what might be coming eventually to the United States if a manufacturer here can make it profitable to offer such a different take on Android.

Take a peek at the images and video above and below, and if you’ve got any questions on the device in the near future, do not hesitate to ask!

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Meizu MX Review is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.


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19Feb/120

Avi Greengart’s Toy Fair 2012

I have attended and spoken at a lot of trade shows over the years – consumer electronics, telephony, computing, broadcasting, database programming, home theater, whatever SXSW is – but I have always wanted to go to Toy Fair. Even the name of it sounds like fun – who doesn’t like toys? This year I finally found an excuse to go, and it wasn’t to see Star Wars toys. (Well, at least it wasn’t the only reason.) At CES this year, there were tons of connected toys – board games that interact with an iPad, children’s educational tablets, and lots of flying things with iPhone controllers. I covered a few of these in my holiday gift guide, but thought that it would be worth attending Toy Fair 2012 and seeing how deeply connectivity really went in the toy industry. What new gadgets would I find? Are vendors embedding 3G and 4G radios into toys, or just WiFi? Toy Fair agreed, and gave me a press pass.

After an exhausting day walking the show floor and paying $4.50 for a bottle of water (this is why you can’t have nice things, New York City), I realized that instead of writing a column about all the cool connected toys I discovered, I was going to end up with something quite different. First of all, Toy Fair reflects an industry with a few very large players – Toys R Us, Walmart, and Target – and a lot of very small independent toy shops. My guess is that the big box stores don’t need Toy Fair – the big vendors court them year round.

As a result, most of the Toy Fair exhibitors seemed to be aiming at buyers for mom and pop stores, and were not quite sure what to do with someone with a press badge. For example, when I would ask about pricing, I was consistently given wholesale pricing by the case – something that never, ever happens at CES, E3, IFA, or even CEDIA, which is aimed at retailers/installers. The booths reflected this emphasis as well; there were aisles and aisles of educational toys, stuffed animals, and crafts – the sort of merchandise you find in independent toy stores. The odd thing was that there wasn’t much in the way of associated services (finance, inventory management software, buyer’s collectives). The odder thing was that none of the goods on display had any sort of connectivity.

"I was taken aback that connectivity was missing from products like science kits"

I wasn’t shocked to find that green toys promising old fashioned play value from companies like Box Creations had not added WiFi routers to their cardboard forts. I understand – and appreciate – that independent stores are looking for products with play value that utilizes a child’s imagination and encourages deeper play than pushing a button on the back of a doll that says how much it likes fashion and hates math. However, I was a bit taken aback that connectivity was missing from products like science kits, where a smartphone app could be used as a way of instructing, monitoring, and interacting with the circuits/chemicals/biology components.

That’s not to say there weren’t any geeky toys on display:

littleBits was showing off new components for its system, which can be best described as BugLabs for kids.

LEGO Systems had new packaging for Life of George, which makes it much clearer that this is an iPhone/LEGO brick combination game rather than a regular box of LEGO. The goal of the game is to quickly build LEGO sculptures that match the picture on your iPhone, which then uses its camera to verify the accuracy of the model. Future variations on this theme are planned. LEGO’s Mindstorms robotics kits were not at the show because the company had nothing new to show off, but an official WiFi module and a 3G module would significantly broaden the uses for the system.

ThinkGeek had a table with various products from its catalog and online store, along with a prototype of a Bluetooth game controller for iOS devices that looks like an original Nintendo 8 bit game pad. Still, my personal favorite was the lightsaber candle holder, which looks even better in real life as it does in the catalog.

TeeGee launched an intriguing interactive stuffed animal of the same name. The twist on this modern Teddy Ruxpin (that looks like the offspring of a TeleTubby and a monkey) is that you’re supposed to hide an iPhone or iPod touch inside, which is used for voice recognition, speech, and gameplay.

DANO Toys was showing off its App Crayon, a child’s stylus for the iPad, along with separate educational apps, such as one that teaches writing to children. There are a lot of styli out there, and some have much stronger brand associations; DANO needs to combine the hardware with the software if it wants to get shelf space.

• There were several vendors showing off Android tablets for children, but, frankly, they all looked terrible. Terrible interfaces, terrible educational software, terrible industrial design.

• Even if there were few genuinely mobile toys, mobile gaming’s influence was strongly felt: Angry Birds was just everywhere. I saw Angry Birds stuffed animals, Angry Birds nightlights, Angry Birds slingshots, foam rockets, flashlights, pens, backpacks, hats, keychains, swirly thingies… and more than one item I couldn’t identify. I even saw a fully analog version of the Angry Birds game: Angry Birds Knock On Wood, from Mattel. I can’t quite pinpoint why this should exist outside of physics teachers and Orthodox Jews suffering from smartphone withdrawal on the Sabbath, but it won a Toy of the Year award.

Finally, while it had nothing at all to do with my original notion of finding connected toys, I was intrigued by Nano Magnetics’ booth full of Nanodots sculptures. Their PR person gave me a vial of their tiny magnets, and I feel urged to warn SlashGear readers to avoid these addictive things at all costs, as there is an inverse relationship between playing with them and productivity. For example, I started writing this paragraph an hour ago.

Avi Greengart’s Toy Fair 2012 is written by Avi Greengart & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.


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19Feb/120

Lytro technology would be amazing for smartphones? How about Lytro video

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The revolutionary Lytro camera is one of the most impressive gadgets we have seen lately. Its light field technology captures the direction of all light in every dimension, allowing users to focus the image after the fact. We know that Lytro is not discarding the possibility of bringing this technology to smartphones, and if that happens, it would be great, because Lytro is also considering working with video.

According to Lytro CEO Ren Ng, this video capture is not completely off the table. The main issue is that processing as much data as the Lytro camera produces is not possible at the moment. But with the right processor, it could be done.

Processing technology is advancing fast. Smartphones are about to be released with quad-core processors, and we can only imagine what we will see next year. It would surely be amazing to see such technology come to high-end smartphones, not only with images, but with video, as well.

Let’s not hold our breath on this one just yet, though. If it happens, it will not be anytime soon, so let’s get hyped up about coming products, instead. This is just food for thought.

[Source: Tech Crunch Via: Engadget]


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19Feb/120

Archos releases new affordable Arnova 8b G2 tablet

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Many times, we ignore the affordable tablets, but they can be a great device for a big percentage of the population. A Manufacturer that is among the best-known for good quality (relatively), affordable devices is Archos. And it has just introduced a new member to the Arnova G2 family – the Arnova 8b G2.

The Arnova 8b G2 is the successor to the Arnova 8 G2, with the main difference being that it lacks physical buttons. The tablet still runs on Android 2.3, though. The lack of physical buttons may indicate that Archos could be planning to upgrade it to Honeycomb, or even Ice Cream Sandwich, some time int he future (like the Archos G9 tablets).

Specs include a 1 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, Android 2.3, and 8-inch TFT-LCD 800x600p display, a front-facing camera, microSD slot and 4/8 GB of internal storage. There is also a 3G USB stick that can be purchased separately, much like the one for the G9 tablets. This would allow the user to connect to carrier-provided data while on the go.

The specifications are not the best, but they also aren’t horrible. Its predecessor now goes for about $170 on Amazon, so we could imagine that this bad boy will probably cost around $200. There are some other good options out there, though. Not to mention that the ASUS MeMo ME370T will cost $250. For an extra $50-dillar bill you could get a quad-core tablet with Android 4.0 and other top-of-the-line specs.

[Source: Arnova Via: Engadget]


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19Feb/120

Samsung Epic 4G Touch gets another leaked Android 4.0 ROM

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Yesterday, we reported that a leaked Android 4.0 ROM had been successfully modded to boot with the Samsung Epic 4G Touch. While the ROM is not completely working, it is a great way to see how Android 4.0 and Touchwiz will feel once the official update is released. But it has just gotten a bit better, with a more recent leak being available for download.

This one is version FB17 (while yesterday’s was FB09), and it should bring some improvements. It is still not completely functional, though. So be careful, do your reading, and remember the typical disclaimer (you could harm your device and void your warranty, and if something happens, no one is responsible for it).

The process is the same, the ROM has to be flashed via Odin. The full instructions and files are at ACSyndicate, so go check it out! There are also two videos available. The first will give you step-by-step instructions, while the second is a review.

[Source: ACSyndicate]

Thanks, Eric!


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19Feb/120

BrailleTouch to bring easier texting to the visually impaired

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Everyone complains of the distractions and bad habits that technology can bring, but it is important to understand that these gadgets can also improve our lives. Not only to the general population, but there are many ways in which technology can help users with disabilities. A great example of this is BrailleTouch, an app meant to help the blind communicate with their loved ones.

The app is being developed by Georgia Tech, and it is open-source. This means that other developers will be able to tweak it and modify it to their liking, possibly making it better.

This service features a 6 button set-up that will simplify “eyes-free texting.” As the user types, the app reads out the letters and symbols of the English alphabet. According to the research, users have been able to reach typing speeds of 32 words per minute, with a spelling accuracy of 92%.

The team has only developed this app for iPhone and iPad, but an Android version is said to be in the works. It is exciting to see such projects being carried out. Technology can really be a blessing, and this is living proof of such.

We are very interested in this subject, so give us your 2 cents! Do you guys know of any people with disabilities that have been able to carry out their daily lives due to smartphones and/or tablets? How so?

[Source: Georgia Tech Via: The Verge]


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19Feb/120

Pentagon working on ‘Avatar’ project; yes, it’s what it sounds like

If you took all the money that James Cameron’s 2009 smash hit Avatar raked in, you’d have the amount of money that has been set aside for the 2013 budget, which include a mission to turn the premise of that film into a real-life military project. It’s even called the Avatar project. Believe it or not, the Pentagon believes it will only cost $7 million to implement. By comparison, Cameron’s movie reportedly cost more than $235 million.

The specifics of the program are actually quite similar to the sci-fi technology that was used in the 3D motion picture. In fact, it’s so similar it’s kind of creepy. “The Avatar program will develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier’s surrogate,” the agency explained. This comes from the Pentagon division known as Darpa, which handles high-concept research initiatives.

According to the literature on the Avatar project, it seems the android counterparts would mainly be used for purposes like ensuring the safety of rooms or outdoor terrain, and recovering combat casulaties, rather than participating in the actual combat. That will be left up to real-life soldiers. But the idea of controlling an avatar in the same way that Cameron’s flick so masterfully demonstrated is nothing short of incredibly awesome. How soon before it becomes as ubiquitous as owning a dog? That’s what we’re waiting for.

[via Gizmodo]

Pentagon working on ‘Avatar’ project; yes, it’s what it sounds like is written by Mark Raby & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.


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19Feb/120

Mini unveils Mini Clubvan for more capacity

Fans of the Mini automotive brand have no doubt become attracted to the company’s line of compact, uniquely built and designed vehicles. Today, though, it unveiled a new model designed for those who still like the differentiated style of a Mini but need a bit more storage space. Introducing the Mini Clubvan. It is based on the Clubman model, which has become an increasingly popular choice among Mini owners.

It looks essentially like a Mini Cooper that someone just stretched out. It still only seats two but there is an extended area in the back for delivery drivers and those who just want some extra space to carry stuff around. The rear doors fully open to allow complete access to the width of the vehicle, making it easy to put in or take out large parcels. It’s also low, with the floor of the cargo area meeting the average driver at about wast-level.

This is being sold to personal and commercial customers, but it is definitely for those who have volume transport of products as a primary function. There are numerous strap pins to keep the content in place, and a cage prevents anything from spilling into the passenger area. In other words, it’s like a really cute truck. Today’s press release is just a teaser of the new vehicle. It will be on display at the Geneva Motor Show in a couple weeks.

Mini unveils Mini Clubvan for more capacity is written by Mark Raby & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.


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19Feb/120

Poll: Thinner device or removable battery?

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Ideally, manufacturers should release products with features that customers want. But some specs may be a bit impossible to feature together. There seems to be a new trend in the market – non-removable batteries. This allows manufacturers to pack things together and make devices much thinner. But is that really what we want?

Having a removable battery brings many improvements to the user experience. Batteries lose efficiency, for one, and one is usually able to just hit a carrier store and pop in the new battery when this happens. Plus, being able to chose third-party and extended batteries is something that we have grown accustomed to.

Devices like the Motorola Droid RAZR and the Droid 4 now come with a non-removable battery, ripping us out of such benefits. But Motorola decided to release the Droid RAZR Maxx, with a huge 3,300 mAh battery. This allows users to go up to multiple days without plugging in their device. And even though it is a bit thicker than the original, it is still amazingly thin.

But such is not the case for the Droid 4. Sure, it is a thin device considering it has a full slide-out keyboard. But we feel like Motorola could have given us a removable-battery by working on it a bit harder, or adding a millimeter or two.

So this raises the question – is it really worth it to make a device thinner by making it impossible to remove the battery? I know I prefer thicker, heavier devices over incredibly thin and light ones. This is the reason why I love HTC so much, its smartphones feel very solid.

But some people may prefer a thinner, lighter smartphone. If the battery is almost twice as big (like the RAZR Maxx), I wouldn’t mind a non-removable battery as much. And the device is still amazingly thin compared to the competition.

But tell us what you think. Go ahead and give us your opinion by participating in the poll, and hit the comments section to explain your reasoning.

Take Our Poll


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19Feb/120

Google releases Foursquare competitor, keeps it in the down-low

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Google’s latest update to its Maps application took place just a few days ago. We did not see much of a change, as it only brought some bug fixes and improved battery life, but Google had sneaked in a very pleasant surprise. Lattitude check-ins now earn you points, which affect your social score in a Google+ leaderboard.

Competition is usually affected when Google releases new services. If possible, we try to stick to Google products, as they work seamlessly with the Android operating system. This service is much to the likes of a popular social check-in network called Foursquare.

Things seem to be a bit tricky now. Many users can’t access the service yet, and others have to check in before even realizing it is there. We are not used to checking-in via Latitude, though. But it is likely that Google is setting things up for a better check-in experience.

Go ahead and try to check it out. And just out of curiosity – how do you guys usually check-in? I mostly use Facebook, but that is because it is what most of my friends use. I would love to see more people adopting better services out there.

[Source: Android World Via: Engadget]


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