Archive for category Review

Tech Review: HTC Titan II

When I encountered the original HTC Titan last fall, I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer size of what I thought was a mini tablet. While I was impressed by the screen quality and resolution, I felt like I was handling a smartphone that could also double as a brick or a paperweight. So when I heard HTC would be creating a Titan II, I had to see what the next generation had in store.

If you’re a fan of the HTC Titan and its mega size, there’s a good chance you will like the Titan II. Although the Titan II has a 4.7-inch screen just like the original, the design feels sleeker. Or perhaps I’m getting used to seeing the mega sized smartphones on the market? Regardless, its screen size makes it easy to browse web pages without constantly zooming in and out as well as watching video without having to squint at a small screen.

HTC Titan II

The Titan II offers nearly the same user experience as using the original;  the Titan II runs a Windows OS just like the Titan. However, the Titan II is 4G LTE, making the phone significantly faster than its predecessor. The fast speed of the Titan II is pretty great, but the biggest upgrade comes from the camera, an impressive 16-megapixel camera. In comparison to the original Titan’s camera or the iPhone 4s, both of which have 8-megapixel cameras, the Titan II is a significant upgrade.  If you rely on your mobile to snap pictures while you’re out and about, the Titan II is a better choice.

The improvements to the Titan II don’t make it strikingly different than its predecessor, yet it’s a worthy contender in the smartphone market, especially if you consider yourself an amateur photographer. You can pick the HTC Titan II for $200 with a two year contract from AT&T.

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Tech Review: Samsung Rugby Smart

For outdoor enthusiasts and the accident prone, AT&T recently released the element resistant Samsung Ruby Smart. After reading what the phone could withstand, I was pretty excited try out the Samsung Ruby Smart for myself.

Samsung Rugby Smart

While the Rugby Smart may not the most aesthetic phone, it even looks durable. The Rugby Smart meets military specifications for dust, humidity, rain and shock. I had no qualms about dropping the phone with its thick case, but I wouldn’t suggest drop kicking it to a friend.

Though the Rugby Smart is designed for durability, users do not necessarily have to give up screen quality. The smartphone still has a 3.7-inch super AMOLED touch screen display making it easy to browse the web and use apps if you’re camping or at the worksite. The on-screen QWERTY seemed a little small and I had a few mistakes texting with it, but this is a feature I could easily adapt to with more use.

I must admit though, I was most excited to test out the Rugby Smart’s resistance to water. The Rugby claims it can be submerged in three feet of water for 30 minutes. I put the Rugby Smart to the test in my kitchen sink and, sure enough, it was still on. I’m not about to put the Rugby Smart up against Lake Michigan, but I’m pretty confident that it can sustain most accidental water damage. However, I would make sure the headphone and power ports sealed are always covered when not in use. If you drop your phone in a puddle while the power port is open, you’ll be shopping for a new one.

Though I’m not the type of gal that will be hiking the Appalachian trial anytime soon, I wouldn’t hesitant to recommend to this phone to camping enthusiast or someone works on heavy duty job sites. If you find yourself in an office all day, the Rugby Smart may be a little excessive unless you’re extremely accident prone.

If you’re interested in the Rugby Smart, you can pick one up at AT&T for $99.99 with a two-year contract.

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Tech Review: Samsung Note

If the current mega-screen smart phones on the market aren’t flashy enough for you, AT&T recently launched the Samsung Note, ushering in the era of the ‘phablet.’ We were lucky enough to test of the Note to see if it’s truly the “next big thing” as its Super Bowl Ad claimed.

Samsung Note

 A cross between a smartphone and a tablet, the Note’s 5-inch screen is similar in shape and design as the Samsung Galaxy S II (see our review here). Its enormous screen is the largest HD screen display created at this point and comes with a S-Pen to prevent you from getting fingerprints all over this flashy screen. Let’s be real though, Samusung is not fooling anyone when trying to rename the stylus.

Samsung utilizes the S-Pen in some of its exclusive apps and features. If doodling is your thing, the Samsung Note may be for you. The Note’s screen is pressure sensitive, allowing users to make light and dark marks with the S-Pen. Check out our previous post for several applications for the S-Pen.

The Note is another mobile device that utilizes the 4G LTE network. Fast speeds, combined with the large screen size, makes the video streaming and web browsing pretty impressive. If you’re looking for a screen with a ‘wow’ factor, the Note has it with the vivid Super AMOLED screen.

As much as I am impressed with Samsung Note, there is a part of me that finds its size a little ridiculous. The Note isn’t really pocket friendly and a little too big to navigate. I can’t imagine using it on a day-to-day basis, let alone taking the Note places other than the office and home.  Maybe the Note is trying too hard to be the flashiest on the market.

There is a lot to like about the Samsung Note. Its display and screen size combine with fast speeds is really impressive. By the same token, the screen size may have crossed the line as unnecessary. Though, there are plenty of people out there who wouldn’t mind hauling the Note around.

If you’re interested in the Note, you can pick one up at an AT&T store for $300 with a two-year contract.

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Tech Review: Pantech Burst

If you’re anxious to hop on a 4G LTE network, but can’t afford to spend a lot on a new phone, Pantech’s Burst is the first 4G LTE smartphone from AT&T with an under-$100 price tag. It may not be as flashy as other 4G LTE smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket (read our review here), but it’s still a solid smartphone for someone who doesn’t want to wait to tap into the LTE network.

Pantech Burst

While other mega-screen smartphones might have the ‘wow’ factor, the slightly smaller Burst is much easier to handle and more hand friendly. The 4-inch Super AMOLED screen doesn’t disappoint and the display is vibrant enough to make any smartphone user happy. Even with a slightly smaller screen, the touch screen was responsive with very few texting mistakes.

 

The Burst runs on an Android Gingerbread platform, though it is expected to run Android’s newest platform Ice Cream Sandwich in the near future. From running apps to web browsing, I didn’t experience any glitches or snags with the Burst.

For the $50 price tag, there are a few tradeoffs. If taking photos with your phone is important to you, you might want to rethink the Burst. Its 5-megapixel camera takes decent photos, but nothing to write home about. Also, the battery life on the Burst may cause problems for those on the go without a portable charger.  However, I think these are livable tradeoffs for the price.

Though the Burst may not be a top-tier smartphone, don’t discount it without first checking it out.  If you’re looking to utilize the 4G LTE network as soon as possible, the Burst is worth looking into. If you’re in the market for a tablet as well, AT&T has an almost unbeatable deal where customers can pick up the Burst and Pantech’s Element tablet for $250 with a two-year contract.

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Tech Review: Samsung Galaxy Skyrocket II

Although Wisconsin residents can’t experience AT&T’s LTE network quite yet, we were still eager to get our hands on the Samsung Galaxy Skyrocket II. The 4.5-inch touch screen with AMOLED Plus display runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread and comes with an 8-megapixel camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera.

My initial reaction when handling the Skyrocket was I couldn’t believe how light it was. I expected the Skyrocket to be comparable to the HTC Titan, which felt like a brick in my hand. The light plastic cover probably has a lot to do it. Though light, this mobile isn’t a great phone to have an “oops” moment with.

Samsung Galaxy Skyrocket II

Aside from the hardware, the AMOLED Plus display on the Skyrocket is outstanding with vibrant colors and sharp images. While I’ve seen several mobiles with better resolution, it’s been on bigger and heavier phones. The screen is also responsive to taps and swipes, but not overly sensitive where you’ll be pocket dialing everyone in your phonebook.

The screen also has a few bonus features. When the right settings are activated, you can flip the phone over to mute it, and you can tilt to zoom in and out with two fingers on the screen. I’m not convinced these features make the phone that much more useful, but they are nice extras.

The biggest disappointment with the Skyrocket II is the limited availability of LTE networks. Without an LTE network in Wisconsin, it’s difficult to fully experience the Skyrocket II. Though even in Wisconsin, where we are still on 3G, the phone quickly loaded web pages and applications.

The user friendliness of the Skyrocket II may be an issue for some users as well. I would recommend the Skyrocket to existing smartphone users and steer non tech savvy users (aka Mom and Dad) towards a different phone.

Though just because LTE networks are not available in Wisconsin doesn’t mean I would write off the Skyrocket II. It’s one of my favorites as far as mega-screen mobiles go. You can check out the Skyrocket II at AT&T for $199 with a two-year contract.

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Tech Review: EarPollution Luxe Micro Earbuds from iFrogz

EarPollution Luxe Micro Earbuds from iFrogz

Last month we tried out a pair of ear buds from iFrogz that had great sound but an awkward ear fit. We got our hands on different pair of iFrogz from AT&T and we thought we would give them another shot. As with any pair of ear buds, the real test to see if they’re a keeper boils down to whether they actually fit and stay in your ear. Unfortunately, this pair and I weren’t meant for each other.

 

Don’t get me wrong, the sound quality was pretty impressive for these tiny head phones. It’s just that I could even sit at my desk without the right one popping out of my ear every few minutes. Taking these to gym was just short of disaster, and I just ended up taking them out altogether. But as I said before, just because these ear buds didn’t work out for me doesn’t mean you should write them off. For someone with a different sized ear canal, these could be a great fit.

Overall, the ear buds are a great choice for someone not looking to spend a whole lot, but values good sound quality. According to Decide.com, prices will remain steady around $20. Just first make sure they fit in your ear.

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Tech Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 with iFrogz Stylus

It’s the new age philosophical question: what is the ideal screen size for a tablet? The market is filled with tablets in a wide range of sizes. The Apple iPad measure in at 9.5-inches, the Kindle Fire is just 7-inches and the HTC Jetstream is a mammoth 10-inches. However, it appears Samsung may have figured out the perfect size with the Galaxy 8.9 from AT&T.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9

The size may be the most attractive feature of the Galaxy 8.9. An inch or two may not sound like a lot when comparing the 8.9 to the Galaxy 10.1 or Galaxy 7, but the difference of fitting the 8.9 in my purse while not having to constantly zoom in my browser in is huge. Weighing just less than one pound, the Galaxy 8.9 is also very lightweight. If you’re looking for a tablet to take on the go without giving up view ability, this tablet could be for you.

As far the tablet’s performance, I really don’t have any complaints. Navigating from the home screen, to an application and then a web page was smooth. There was one instance where by browser did sputter, but it was minor overall. The battery life on the tablet is pretty impressive as well with more than eight hours of use on a charge.

I amped my tablet experience by using a stylus for the first time. Bid farewell to annoying finger prints on your flashy tablet. The stylus made it easy to switch web pages and zip through text pages, but I will say it’s not ideal for typing unless you enjoy to the one-key-at-a time method.

The Galaxy 8.9 is available from AT&T for $480 with a two-year contract, and the iFrogz Stylus will set you back $13.

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