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02 March 2016

Review: Asus ZenFone Zoom

With so many different good smartphones cameras available in the market, the one feature often lacking is the ability to zoom. Asus released a new ZenFone Zoom which offers an optical zoom lens without the use of telescoping lenses protruding from the rear casing which can be proven bulky at some point. Asus achieve this by using periscope style prisms. Not only that, they have dedicated camera buttons. Obviously, this is a camera-centric phone in the market! 


Asus had produced some of the best wireless routers I had come to know in recent times and even now my own wireless router is RT-AC68U. Personally, I had never use Asus phone and not many around me are using one. So I am pleasantly surprised when StarHub offered me a chance to review one of their latest Zenfone Zoom, one which was talk about for the past 1 year. From what I understand from the launch event I just went, this phone model is only available exclusively to StarHub Customers and you get this for free if you sign up for StarHub 4G 5GB plan!



Display:
5.5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (401 ppi) IPS LCD
Gorilla Glass 4
Hardware:
Intel Atom Z3580, Quad-core, 2330 processor, 4096 MB RAM
64 GB Built-in storage and allows storage expansion up to 128GB microSD (Singapore edition)
3000 mAh battery capacity (Built-in)
Camera:
13MP 1/3" Sensor
3X Optical Zoom
f2.7 - f4.8 Variable Aperture
1080/30p video (20Mbps)
Hardware & Software Stabilization
Dual LED Flash
Laser Focus Assist
Size:
158.9 x 78.84 x 11.95 mm, weighting 185g
Available in Black and White.

I got some shots to share with you guys both in low light condition and utilizing 3X Opitcal Zoom: 

Before Zoom

After applying 3X Optical Zoom
Night shot after applying 3X Optical Zoom



Night shot
For the most part, the phone provides reasonable grip which is important if you want to use it to take pictures, thanks to the genuine leather finish back cover. It got a  designated shutter release button (2 stage camera shutter) that allows half press to focus and full press to shoot, a feature most desired for photographers. Perform very well under low light shooting condition, ability to stabilize well at maximum zoom to handle slight camera shake. Most phones zoom by cropping the image but this phone by Asus provides a 3X optical zoom which maintains the full resolution of the sensor. Overall, the phone really does look like a point and shoot camera. As mentioned earlier, there's one small red dotted button dedicated to start shooting, you gotta press and hold to initiate and press and hold again to initiate video recording. Talking about video recording, it doesn't come with 4K UHD video recording or continuous focus. Although it does offer manual adjustments on the fly for video, shutter speed isn't one of them. Stabilization is only available in 720p mode. Slow motion capture is not one you will use and share, however time lapse is impressive.  


And for all you selfie wefie shooting lovers, you will be pleased with this wide-angle 5-megapixel sensor. You can dump your selfie stick! 

The back is removable which provides access to the micro SIM card and microSD slots. Sadly, depending on how you see it as an advantage or not disadvantage, the battery is non-removable, as such, for us power users, make sure arm yourself with power bank to last through the whole day and night. On average, a full charge will last you not more than 6 hours. And to fully charge your phone when your battery is flat, it will take you about 100 mins to full charge it. 

Running on Android 5.0 Lollipop overlaid with Asus' ZenUI which I read is pretty much the same with their predecessors. Although by now, most of the phones should have already upgraded to Marshmallow, for Asus, it seems it will take sometime, earliest can be April or latest June. With the upgrade coming up, Asus own Mail, Calendar and Messenger apps are going by the wayside, in favor of Google's Gmail, Calendar and Google Hangout. The Taiwanese company decided that less is more this time round.  

In closing, this phone is built around one specific rare feature which is a well executed hardware zoom. If you are someone who cares about photography and video and want a convenience feature of a hardware zoom yet someone who is not so concern about lens clarity and video performance, this phone is for you since there's manual settings to play around and explore great many possibilities.

Updated: 03032016 (1609hrs)

06 January 2016

BlackBerry Priv, the best BlackBerry Smartphone ever!



Cut to the chase, BlackBerry Priv is the best BlackBerry Smartphone ever released in the market! A vertical slider powered by Android Lollipop 5.1.1 (slated to release by 1st quarter of 2016) and hopefully get an update of Marshmallow real soon.

This phone is so well designed that having a casing doesn't do justice! Besides, it's not slippery at all and it does give you the grip and good to hold!

It has 32GB internal storage and not only that, you can increase your storage space up to 2TB using their microSD slot which are quite a rare thing now for most popular Android smartphones! It has 3GB of RAM (Memory) allowing you to run more apps smoothly. Running on Snapdragon 808 64bit and has a integrated Adreno 418, 600MHz GPU to run a demanding Android gaming fluently.

One of the most talk about topics when comes to getting a new phone is their battery life, what you get from BlackBerry Priv is 3410mAh non removable Lithium Ion battery which makes it secure and not drop out when you drop the phone, hence disconnected and power off. I believe I did share the benefit of having non-removable and because of it, I was able to recover my previous phone HTC Butterfly S which I drop it off from my car top, drove a distance to realize my phone not with me, using my friend's phone to track the exact location of my phone to retrieve it back! That's my story! Anyway, with the affordable big capacity power banks, it's not really necessary to swap battery. Sadly, wireless charging is only available in United States but at least it has quick charging which is mandatory for all smartphones. During my 2 weeks of usage, on average, it will last me 12 hours or at best 14 hours. Heard it can give you more, so it does depends on your daily activities. But then again, quick charging is available for this baby!  

I have to say this, I enjoyed watching video and viewing pictures on this sharp and quality panel, 5.4" AMOLED curved edge screen on both sides, which comes with front facing speaker which sits at the bottom of the phone below its qwerty keyboard. I said it before and I said it again. Front facing speaker should be mandatory instead of rear facing or side facing. Have you ever seen someone in the train or walking in the streets cuping their phone in such a way they can hear the video or audio clearly? Front facing would have solved the problem. Since my first HTC phone, Butterfly S, I enjoyed watching video and even listening to music more than ever before through a mobile device. Although I would have prefer it to be 2 sided and it would have been awesome. If you still use phone to talk a lot, you will find it pleasant to hear "the other side" voice, sounded abit bassy yet sharp. 

It actually pretty close to stock Android and doesn't contain some useless bloatwares in like other brands. It is preloaded with BlackBerry enhancement and added features thrown in. If you enjoy using BlackBerry 10 OS, you will find it familiar even when using this Android powered BlackBerry Priv. Yet I believe there are some fixes and further improvement to bring it closer to BB 10 OS, like the BlackBerry Hub, you read the messages in WhatsApp app but still show unread in its hub. Pinch to show unread messages and emails are not available, although you can toggle that but selecting unread tab. You can swipe up from the bottom to not only get Google Now but swipe left to use BlackBerry Search or swipe right to load BlackBerry Hub. For those of you who are unfamiliar with BlackBerry Hub, you can call it unified messaging where all your email accounts, whatsapp, SMS, notification etc show up in one single location. It may sound overwhelming but you can find it useful, without the need to really open up the email app to see your emails etc. 



BlackBerry Priv has a special feature built in called Pop-Up widgets which lets you swipe up from a particular icons on the home screen to just show their widget, although you can get this featured installed from third party Android launchers but well, BlackBerry built in with it. As for the multitasking tray, it show different apps in different sizes which is kind of cool. You can double tap to wake the phone instead of pressing the power button on the left. Unfortunately, you cannot double tap to sleep which my LG G4 allows that. Hopefully, future updates can add that up. Also, by default,  the Productivity Edge features takes advantage of the dual curve design by letting you take a peek at your notifications, messages, calendar and so on - with a simple swipe. You can set it up  to work on either side of the screen (right, or left). One of the exciting feature I like, on the right curved edge of the display, it show a charging bar when the BlackBerry Priv is plugged in.

Qwerty keyboard is not as desirable as how it use to be for BlackBerry. Since many of us already gotten use to virtual keyboard, moreover Priv's ain't as space out as how BlackBerry Bold 9900 is which is understandable due to the design of its hardware. In fact, if there's any reason why I would pay for Priv would be their very own BlackBerry virtual keyboard. I always find myself loving Z10 or even better Z30 virtual keyboard. Even of late, I got hold of its virtual keyboard on my LG G4 from a forum. Having said that, I want to add that its keyboard act as trackpad as well, scrolling up and down without touching the screen but swiping up and down on the keyboard itself, much like the BlackBerry Passport. 

Wireless at certain point in time it will be useless. It will show the available network but not able to connect. Toggle off and on doesn't seems to solve the problem. So I have to reboot to get it work again. Although intense gaming seems smooth but occasionally, you do feel that the phone overall is not as smooth as it ought to be. Sadly it can get pretty hot when I use the phone extensively or when it boot up. Initially when I set up this phone, considering the amount synchronization need to be done, I thought well maybe it's just normal for most phones.

One feature that I particularly like is the ability to set how long I want the phone to go silent or DND like one hour or two? Or switch back to normal after the alarm set. In a way the chances of me overslept is lower. Cause I will usually get notification from either emails or other instant messaging apps.

Most people already commented that the front facing camera is mediocre when you compare with my current LG G4, I have to agree. Result is not acceptable when there are so many better front facing camera in the market. Considering BlackBerry just released this model. If it is released 1 or 2  years ago, maybe most people would have pass it. Yet, rear camera 18 megapixel auto-focus camera which comes with Optical Image Stabilization produces decent pictures which match up with even iPhone 6S.

Well, at the end of the day, I personally feel that BlackBerry Priv is perfect for those who regards messaging a priority and productivity. Occasionally you can play high demanding games during your train ride or tea break, it will work well! Premium design and one that stands out from the rest of the smartphones you ever seen! One thing about me is I dislike using phone that everybody is using kind of guy, weird it seems!



Additional info:

I would like to encourage you to click the link below to view the demo of their features:
http://demos.blackberry.com/priv-by-blackberry/na/ca/gen/how-to/priv-by-blackberry/priv-by-blackberry-overview/smartphone-interface/index.html

If you do bother about security about your Android phone, read more about it here:
http://blogs.blackberry.com/2015/10/priv-is-for-private-how-blackberry-secures-the-android-platform/