Posted on 28th February 2013
We're Carphone Warehouse, so we're going to keep this as a clean straight fight between phones and tablets. So, from our hours spent walking the length and breadth of the MWC Fira Gran Via venue (it's 1.2km long!), here are the devices that really caught our eye.
Huawei Ascend Mate.
There are phones with big screens, there are phones with very big screens, and then there's the Huawei Ascend Mate. With a monster 6.1" 720p HD LCD display, there's never been anything like it. Despite all that real estate, Huawei has pulled off the remarkable trick of making the Mate feel fairly compact. It's 9.9mm thick (an HTC One is 9.3mm, and that has a 'mere' 4.7" touchscreen), and it weighs only 3g more than a Nokia Lumia 920, a phone with a 4.5" screen. The Mate's sharp screen has some real pop and brightness, even under the lights of the arena, and the build quality is superb. It's solid, ergonomic and even the haptic feedback (the vibration when you type) is of real quality.
Delving into using the phone, the software is very advanced with lots of customisation options allowing you tweak more out of the box than anything we've seen to date. Inside it's got quad core processing power, an 8MP camera, space for a microSD card up to 64GB, and of course the latest version of Android, the 4.1 Jelly Bean flavour. The final standard is the 4,050mAh battery. That is a monster, over two and half times the size of the battery in an iPhone 5. We'd expect epic battery life, even with that big old screen.
Nokia Lumia 720.
As soon as we picked up the Lumia 720, a satisfied feeling spread through us. Taking the same design ideas as the Lumias 800, 900 and 920, the 720 is made from a single block of high quality polymer. Yes, it's plastic, but it's well thought out, ergonomic and has an eye pleasing gloss finish, in the white and red variants we saw at least. It's also a very manageable size, with a 4.3" touchscreen and tipping the scales at a pocket friendly 128g. Nokia has even managed to squeeze in space for a microSD card slot, so you can plug in a card to boost memory.
The cameras in smartphones are coming under more and more scrutiny, and it seems Nokia (along with HTC) is really pushing the boundaries. The snapper on the back of the 720 is 6.7MP, but where it stands out is the F stop number. This is a measure of the camera's ability to let in light, the lower the F number, the more light enters the lens. The 720 has an f/1.9 lens, bigger even than the Nokia Lumia 920, one of the best performers in low light conditions, so we can safely say you'll get a high quality camera with this phone and great low light shots.
Sony Xperia™ Tablet Z.
With the launch of the Sony Xperia™ Z smartphone, Sony turned heads. With the Xperia Tablet Z, they've arguably turned a few more. Designed with the same styling as the Z smartphone, it's sleek, and ridiculously thin at 6.9mm – it's a seriously impressive bit of kit to hold. Despite this slender and lightweight design (it's 495g), it packs proper high end tech. It has a quad core processor, 2GB RAM, 8.1MP camera, 4G connectivity, 1080p 10.1" touchscreen…the list goes on. In fact, it's even water resistant. It seriously raises the bar for a premium 10.1" tablet.
The software too is top end. An infrared port lets an app called Sideview control your television. You can scroll through an extensive list of channels to see what's on now, tomorrow and even in a week's time, then press on the programme you want to watch; it'll pop right up on your TV. The app actually lets you connect to pretty much anything, from your Blu-ray player to your stereo. What else? There's a cool app called Xperia™ Link. This connects the Xperia Z tablet to the Xperia™ Z smartphone, sharing the smartphones mobile data connection. But there's more. Put the smartphone in your pocket and should you get a text, it'll pop up on your tablet and let you respond. It's the same for emails. Done tethering? Just turn off the app from your tablet, and the tethering will turn off on the Xperia™ Z smartphone too, so you don't have to handle both devices.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0.
And then we come to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. Rumours across the internet had speculated about this, and it can be said it perhaps wasn't the best kept secret. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 has an 8" screen, and is, of course, 8mm thin. The styling is very much along the lines of an S III or Note II, giving it the look of an enlarged version of either of those. Not a bad thing at all. Inside it's of course high end, with a quad core processor, 2GB RAM and that ever popular infrared port. There's also the S-Pen, allowing a whole host of productivity tools, something the Note family of Samsung devices is becoming famous for.
Software-wise the Note 8.0 has a couple of bespoke apps that are pretty neat and take full advantage of the S-pen stylus. The Virtual Human app lets you take a digital look at the human body. Using the pen you can zoom in, lay muscle over a skeleton and make the muscles opaque so you can see the layout and even hover the S-Pen over the screen to scroll down the body to see how every part fits together. Then there's a great app called SketchBook. Take a photo, or download one, and you can use the pen to edit, add, highlight, colour in…practically anything you can think of. Then, you can take the photo away to leave just your handy work, fading out the main photo so your highlights are more visible. Everything about the Note 8.0 has been well thought out so it merges perfectly with the hardware.
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