First look: Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini

SM-G800H_GS5-mini_Black_11Samsung’s grip on the Android smartphone market shows no signs of slowing down – it continues to headline the top-end with powerhouse devices and has catered nicely to less demanding users with stripped-down versions. The S5 mini was more a case of “when” than “if”, and shows up to fill a familiar niche in users who want a smaller device and don’t necessarily need the raw power of the big brother.

As with the rest of these miniature marvels, the S5 mini does look like an undersized S5 and takes many of the core features with it, including the ultra Power Saving Mode, a heart rate monitor, fingerprint scanner, and of course full compatibility with Samsung wearable devices. It also mimics the design, with a unique perforated pattern on the back cover along with a premium, soft-touch grip.

Elsewhere there’s a 4.5”Super AMOLED (720 x 1280) display, quad core 1.4 GHz processor, 1.5GM RAM and an 8MP camera, and its 4G compatible if you’re up for paying more for super-fast downloads. It’s also IP67 dust and water resistant, which means it’s fully protected against dust and protected against immersion in water to depths up to 1 meter for a limited time, a very real benefit if, like us, you’re prone to dropping these things down the toilet.

Compare the S5 mini to its predecessor, the S4 mini, and you’ll see a small size increase, largely due to the increased 4.5” display (up from 4.3”). Pixel density is also up from 256 to 326ppi, which matches the iPhone 5s. Other notable upgrades include double the internal storage (16GB), the fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor of course and the fact that it will ship with the updated KitKat interface alongside the latest version of Samsung’s TouchWiz UI.

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The Samsung Galaxy S5 mini come in different colours

Overall it’s a worthy upgrade on the stripped down S4, encompassing enough of the novelties of the full-sized S5 and still delivering a phone that punches above its weight in terms of “budget” handsets. This term is a slight misnomer however – the S5 mini is a premium device in an undersized chassis and allows users to benefit from a relatively underpowered but still more than capable handheld in a smaller form factor, with the added bonus of all of Samsung’s new value-added extras.

No details on pricing are available at this stage, though we’d expect it to cost around £350 sim-free. It hits Russia first in a range of colours including Charcoal Black, Shimmery White, Electric Blue and Copper Gold, and is expected to follow shortly to the UK and US with a similar range of aesthetic options.

For more information please visit Samsung

Galaxy Tab S: What the critics say

galaxy-tab-s-tablet

Samsung Electronics has released their new Galaxy Tab S, Samsung’s thinnest and lightest tablet to date. The Tab S comes in two form factors, 10.5-inch and 8.4-inch. Both models come complete with a WQXGA (2560×1600, 16:10) Super AMOLED display which, the company claims, delivers more than 90% of Adobe RGB colour coverage and comes with a 100,000:1 contrast ratio. The company’s Adaptive Display technology will automatically adjust the device’s gamma, saturation, and sharpness based on the application as well as the colour temperature depending on the viewing environment and the lighting.

Both models have a sleek 6.6mm profile and weigh in at only 465g (10.5-inch) and 294g (8.4-inch). They will be available with a variety of connectivity options: Wi-Fi, or Wi-Fi and LTE, available in 16/32GB + MicroSD (up to 128GB). You can also choose between Titanium Bronze or Dazzling White. The smaller model incorporates a 4,900mAh battery, with the 10.5inch packing 7,900mAh. The company claim that when used in Ultra-Power Saving Mode, the Galaxy Tab S lets you “enjoy hours of entertainment without having to worry about recharging”.

Samsung devices are well known for coming packed with a variety of software, some of which is genuinely useful, some of which just a bit too quirky for the average user. The Galaxy Tab S is made for entertainment and comes with a variety of related apps. “Kick” is a new football app that provides in-depth and visually compelling sports data in real-time as matches get played. Samsung’s magazine service, “Papergarden” debuts on the Galaxy Tab S. An optimised viewing environment for digital interactive magazines, you will be able to view a wide range of popular magazines in vivid and true-to-life colour. There is also Galaxy Gifts which is where Samsung has teamed up with more than 30 mobile content and service providers to bring you extra content such as free memberships to Marvel and a free e-book per month.

So far, so good – but lets take a look at what some top industry critics thought of the Galaxy Tab S.

First up is The Guardian who asks whether the Samsung Galaxy Tab S review: a rival for the iPad?. The reviewer is particularly impressed with the new tablet’s display, going as far as to state that it’s the best I’ve ever seen on a tablet” and that it’s “bright enough to read even in direct sunlight”. He was also positive about the battery life, stating that:

I found both Tab S models lasted a good day (about 15 hours) on a single charge under constant usage (constant push email, a few hours’ browsing, perhaps an hour of video) without activating any of the power-saving modes. Even with a power-hungry application like the Assassin’s Creed 4 second-screen app connected to a PS4 the 10.5in tablet lasted a good eight hours.

In concluding, The Guardian’s view was that the “Tab S is Samsung’s best tablet yet by miles. Samsung has definitely given the iPad Air and Mini a solid run for their money: these are arguably the best Android tablets to date, with the best screen ever on a tablet.” They also awarded the device 5 out of 5 stars.

Here’s a quick infographic highlighting some of the features of the Tab S:

infographic

Over at Trusted Reviews they were equally positive, awarding the Tab S 9/10 and giving it “Recommended” status. In particular they liked the “sharp, bright screen” as well as the fact it was “very thin, light and portable” and came with a “good battery life”. There overall verdict was that:

In every way that matters, this is a great tablet. The fingerprint reader is naff and some of Samsung’s software features miss the mark, but the screen is great it’s the perfect size for toting around with you everywhere.

The folks at TechnoBuffalo proclaimed the two varieties of the Tab S to be “the best Samsung tablets we’ve ever seen“:

Not only does it possess a great design and cool features, but it also comes equipped with one hell of a screen—among the best, if not the best, we’ve ever laid eyes on.

Awarding the devices 9/10 the reviewer rounded-up by stating that:

Samsung has never really excelled in the tablet market, but the company has finally hit a sweet spot with the Tab S

The Tab S devices will be selected markets from July 2014.

First impressions: Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

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I’m pretty sold on the idea that I’m never going to buy another point and click camera again. I love to take pictures, and it’s still at the stage where it’s an enjoyable pastime for me but the point and click sits uncomfortably between the my full-blown DSLR, which I still have a lot of time and love for, and my iPhone 5S camera, which isn’t merely “good enough”, it’s often great. So with the point and click market dwindling, the inevitable first wave of camera-smartphones is upon us.

The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, is an update of last year’s Galaxy S4 Zoom – both essential mid-range smartphones with a high-end camera attached to the back. Like all emerging categories, this appears to be a mix of fun, cutting edge features constrained by technological restrictions that have a negative effect on things like usability and design.

Galaxy-K-zoom_out

Samsung tout the lens on the K Zoom as “professional grade” and whilst it does give you a range of options you wouldn’t get on a standard smartphone, don’t kid yourself that you can ditch your real camera. The lens has a focal distance of 24-240mm, the aperture goes from F3.1-6.3 and the ISO goes all the way up to 3200. The 20.7 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor should make your day to day snaps really pop, and the high ISO should help with grain free low-light images.

Of course the beauty of smartphones is the onboard processing power and there are a number of clever tricks thrown in to make it a bit more than a regular camera – and ultimately to help you to easily take better photos. You can split the focus and exposure (much like the Camera+ app) so you can get sharp, well lit images. You can also track objects, time selfies, and the camera will suggest which Instagram-like filters will suit your images.

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However, the K Zoom, whilst slimmer than it’s previous iteration, is still bulkier than what people have come to expect from a smartphone. It’s also a fairly mid-range smartphone, so you’re compromising a little on everything else to accommodate the camera – most bizarrely on screen quality which is just 720p rather than the 1080p of the S5 (which is odd for an image focused device to sacrifice colour accuracy). The processor is also a step down from Samsung’s Tier One devices, making it a cellphone of compromise.

Samsung announces budget 7-inch Galaxy Tab 3 Lite

Samsung

In its never-ending quest to bring out gadgets to cover all possible screen sizes, price points and design styles, Samsung has announced a new, slimmer version of the Galaxy Tab 3 tablet. The new 7-inch slate is aimed squarely at the budget tablet shopper, putting it in competition with Tesco’s popular Hudl device, among others.

The original Galaxy Tab 3 is by no means a world-beater, but the Tab 3 Lite cuts the specs back even further: there’s a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU under the hood, 1GB of RAM and a display running at 1,024 x 600 pixels. The bezel is smaller than on the original Tab 3, though the 7-inch screen size is the same. You get a measly 8GB of internal storage (though you can pop in a memory card if you like). There’s a single 2-megapixel camera around the back, and the device comes with Android 4.2 Jellybean pre-installed (complete with Samsung’s usual collection of tweaks and add-ons). Black and white editions will be available to potential buyers.

Nothing to write home about then, but perhaps something cheap that might suit the kids (though there are enough tablets that fall into this bracket already). Engadget’s Jamie Rigg rightly points out that the new device doesn’t bring much to an already crowded market: “If Samsung hopes to sell these things en masse, anything but seriously cheap is going to put a stop to those plans,” he writes.

CNET’s Lance Whitney also reserved full judgement until the price is announced: “The full 8GB Galaxy Tab 3 retails for $200, so the Lite model will have to sell at a more appealing price to win over buyers,” Whitney says. His UK colleague Nick Hide wasn’t blown away by the specs on offer, describing the screen resolution as “abysmal” and the design “old fashioned looking”.

So what is the newly official Galaxy Tab 3 Lite up against? The Tesco Hudl is heavier, but has a much better display and a front-facing camera. It’s also faster, though a full comparison isn’t possible until Samsung lets us know just how much its latest piece of kit will cost. There’s also the Asus MemoPad HD, a similar bargain-basement 7-inch tablet that has a slightly better display and a slighter faster CPU. In terms of bang-for-buck, Google’s own Nexus 7 remains the best choice for Android slabs at this size — it’s not the cheapest option, though, which is why other companies have tried to muscle in.

It’s all down to the price as to whether this will be a budget option for users or a complete non-starter, then — some UK retailers have it listed for slightly less than the £119 Hudl, but stock hasn’t yet arrived so these prices may be estimates. If we hear officially from Samsung, we’ll update this post accordingly.

Samsung offers ‘gifts’ with Galaxy NotePRO and TabPRO

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Today at CES 2014, Samsung announced that it has teamed up with more than 11 of the world’s leading mobile content and service providers to offer its Galaxy TabPRO and NotePRO users with the pre-paid, long-term subscription offers from best-selling news, social media and cloud storage providers.

Here is the current list (which is dependant on your location):

Bitcasa
1TB storage for 3 months

Bloomberg Businessweek+
Free Subscription: 12 Months

Blurb
Free Coupon

Cisco WebEx Meetings
6 month free subscription and unlimited meetings

Dropbox
Free 50 GB for 2 years (100GB for $99/year)

EasilyDo Pro
Free app purchase

Evernote
3-12 month free subscription (dependent on country)

Hancom Office
Free Subscription

LinkedIn
3 months of LinkedIn Premium Membership

LIVESPORT.TV
6 month free subscription

NY Times
Free Subscription: 12 weeks

Oxford Advanced Learner’s A-Z
Free app purchase

Remote PC
2 year free subscription

Sketchbook Pro
Free app purchase

Find out about the new Galaxy NotePRO and TabPRO at http://www.samsung.com/uk/discover/news/samsung-at-ces-2014

Sponsored Video: O2 Guru TV on the Samsung Galaxy S3

The guys over at O2 Guru TV have been checking out the Samsung Galaxy S3. Presenters Nicola and Maddie went along to the Samsung Mobile Unpacked 2012 event held in Earls Court, London.

The S3, which will be available soon on 02, comes in a choice of either “Pebble Blue” or “Marble White”. The phone packs a punch in the display department, with a 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED 1280×720 display and a super slim bezel edge. The s3 comes in at just 8.6mm thick and weighs only 133g.

The phone comes complete with an 8MP auto focus camera with an array of useful features, such as burst shot, buddy photo share and best photo. This latter feature makes sure you never miss a smile or catch someone blinking. It works by automatically taking a burst of eight pictures, making a continuous scene, and will even choose the best one for you.

In addition to the main camera, which can also shoot video in full HD 1080, the Galaxy S3 has an additional 1.9MP front facing camera which is obviously ideal for things video calling.

Following a trend in new smartphones, the S3 comes with a voice recognition system they call “S-Voice” which enables you to do things like setting (or turning off!) an alarm, answering or rejecting calls and even telling the camera when to shoot.

Another feature on the S3 is ‘Social Tag’ lets you link the faces in your photo album with their social media streams, enabling you to look at their pictures and see their current status.

The power behind the phone comes from Samsung’s very own 1.4GHz Exynos quad-core processor, partnered with 1GB of RAM and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system.

To find out more and to see the phone in action, check out this O2 Guru TV video:

This post has been sponsored by O2

Casemate Barely There range for Samsung Galaxy II and iPhone 4

If you’re tired of reading endless iPhone case reviews and wondering why your Samsung Galaxy S doesn’t get more love than look no further (well look no further than halfway through this article – I’ve snuck an iPhone 4 case review in at the end as well. Also maybe try not reading reviews for cases of phones you don’t own).

Casemate-Barely-There

We’ve looked at a few casemate releases recently – battery packs, novelty animal designs and even a combo purse/phone thing that turned a few heads. The Barely There range however is in the less is more school of case making and is more about supporting your phone than it is about detracting.
The slim and minimal case design is for people who are really into the look and feel of their Galaxy S II and don’t want to augment the design or add bulk to an already massive handset. In addition to protection, cases offer a way to bring a little colour to the device and the Barely There range comes in a variety of colours, including a T2-esque metallic silver.

Apparently made from specially engineered materials, including a hard-to-break plastic shell, the form fitting case slims in all the right places, getting out of the way of buttons, ports and connectors. Of course, this does make it a little bit like squeezing into a pair of perfect jeans and popping the case on and off in a hurry is a little bit difficult. Then again this is a problem that affects maybe 30 people doing case reviews and no one else so it’s not a major concern.

The iPhone 4 Barely There case is all of the above, just wrapped around a smaller, older and yet somehow insanely popular phone. There is a circular cut-out so you can let the world see your Apple logo except for the brushed aluminium version which has a lovely metal lining and a case mate logo.

Check them out at http://www.case-mate.eu.com/

Out of this world? The Samsung Galaxy S II

The very slimline (8.49mm and the slimmest in the world according to Samsung) Android handset features Android 2.3 Gingerbread as well as a speedy dual-core 1GHz Samsung chip along with a generous 1Gb of AM.

While reviewers loved the original Galaxy S, some were not so keen on its design, which made it look like an iPhone wannabe. This time round, Samsung has gone for a case with square corners, but now it looks rather like an iPhone 4.

Samsung-Galaxy-S-II

That aside, one of its standout features is its new screen – a Super AMOLED Plus, which we’re assuming will be even better than the original Super AMOLED display – it’s supposed to be both less reflective and more sharp than its predecessor.

The screen is a good size – 4.3 inches – which should make for a decent web surfing experience – and with that Android 2.3 OS, things are looking up for the online browser. One of the good things about Gingerbread is its ability to support Flash, which widens the web experience further.

That big screen should also make it a top device for viewing movies, which can be played back at 1080p high definition. For still shots the Galaxy Samsung S II also has an 8-megapixel snapper with LED flash. (It’s a shame there’s no dedicated camera button, though.) You’ll be able to share all your media using DNLA and Wi-Fi.

Android 2.3 has plenty to recommend it, as you’ll have seen from previous reviews – not least the excellent App Market, and Google maps, for a great navigation experience. And with that powerful processor on board, the Samsung Galaxy S II should be well up to powering all these advanced features.

The phone also features the 3D TouchWiz UI, which adds 3D transition effects and is touted as the next step in the development of the UI. It also features the latest incarnation of
Samsung Kies 2.0 & Kies air, which allows the handset to sync with a computer over a Wi-Fi network. The other new technology that features is NFC (Near Field Comminication), which when it is available more widely will allow you to use your phone for contactless credit card payments and travel (rather like an Oyster card).

On the apps front there are a few new treats – most notably the Music Hub, which allows you to access the 7digital music store,  which lets you redownload purchased MP3s to your phone should you ever lose it – and there are some free games on offer from the Game Hub.

The Samsung Galaxy S was enormously popular, and with its powerful processor and advanced features, it looks like its successor should be just as high on consumers’ wishlists. We’ll have to wait until May to see it on the shop shelves, when it looks like it will be on sale for a few quid more than £500.

For a full list of specs for the Galaxy S II head here: