Fancy the underdog? HTC has the new U12+ available

Subject: Mobile | May 28, 2018 - 04:13 PM |
Tagged: htc, U12+, smartphone

HTC has been having Nokia-like difficulties in the smartphone market, but they refuse to give up ... perhaps because of what Microsoft did to Nokia. That hasn't stopped them from putting out new phones, and interesting ones at that.  The camera on this phone is almost, but not quite as good as the one found on the new Pixel but The Register found the overall performance and features of the HTC to be superior and significantly better priced.  Check out their hands on review here.

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"HTC's only flagship smartphone of 2018 – the U12+ – looks like a sensibly priced alternative to the Pixel and Galaxy, without the eccentricities and flaws of the Huawei P20 Pro."

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Source: The Register
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Not Just a Better Camera

Samsung’s updated Galaxy phones are available now, and while the external designs - while beautiful - look the same as last year, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ feature faster internals and an improved camera system. Is it worth an upgrade over the Galaxy S8? How does this new flagship from Samsung compare to Apple’s more expensive iPhone X? Read on to find out!

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During the Galaxy S9 at Samsung’s “Unpacked” event unveiling the new phones, much was made about the GS9’s camera - and particularly its video recording capability, which features an ultra slow-motion mode. While camera is a vital part of the experience, and can make or break a handset for many people, it is the application processor that constitutes a bigger upgrade from last year’s Galaxy S8 phones.

In the USA, Samsung is using Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845, while many of the international versions of the phone use Samsung’s own Exynos SoC. We took an early look at performance with the Snapdragon 845 during Qualcomm’s recent media day, and now with shipping hardware and far more time for benchmarking we can really put this new mobile platform to the test. You can take or leave synthetic benchmark results, of course; I can offer my own subjective impressions of overall responsiveness, which is as much a test of software optimization as hardware.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Specifications (US Version)
Display 6.2-inch 1440x2960 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (SDM845)
CPU Cores 8x Kryo 385 up to 2.8 GHz
GPU Cores Adreno 630
RAM 6 GB LPDDR4X
Storage 64 / 128 / 256 GB
Network Snapdragon X20 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0; A2DP, aptX
USB 3.1 (Type-C)
NFC
Battery 3500 mAh Li-Ion
Dimensions 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm, 189 g
OS Android 8.0

Samsung has opted to bring back the same industrial design introduced with last year’s Galaxy S8/S8+, but this was already a class-leading design so that is not a bad thing.

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Continue reading our review of the Samsung Galaxy S9+!

Huawei Unveils Flagship P20 Pro Smartphone With AI-Powered Triple Leica Cameras

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | April 4, 2018 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, p20 pro, Oreo, Leica, Kirin 970, Huawei, android 8.1

Huawei recently unveiled a slew of new smartphones and its new flagship P20 Pro is quite impressive and is the first smartphone to pack three rear cameras with Leica optics. The Huawei P20 Pro measures 155 x 73.9 x 7.8mm, weighs in at 180 grams (0.0275 lbs), and comes in black, midnight blue, pink gold, or gradient twilight colors.

Huawei P20 Pro Kirin 970 Android 8 Smartphone.png

The P20 Pro is IP67 rated for dust and water resistance and features soft rounded edges and flat faces. The front of the smartphone is dominated by an edge-to-edge 6.1’ FullView OLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 2440 (408 PPI). a fingerprint sensor sits below the display and is the only hardware button on the front fact. While there is a notch (that is smaller than the iPhone X’s), Huawei offers a setting that will turn off the top of the display to the left and right of the notch to hide it if the notch is too annoying to you. The notch in the display is where the front facing camera with 24.8 MP CMOS sensor is located (the camera can be used for facial recognition to unlock the phone). External I/O includes a single USB-C port on the bottom (there is no 3.5mm headphone jack but Huawei does include the USB-C to 3.5mm adapter).

Around back is where things get interesting as Huawei has managed to pack three Leica cameras as well as an LED flash into the top corner. The rear cameras can be used alone or in combination and offer various forms of autofocus and depth detection along with bokeh portrait modes, improved low light and long exposure performance, and AI-powered image stabilization, scene detection, camera settings, and shot composition assistance. That's quite the run-on sentence, but in fact the P20 Pro managed to obliterate the DxOMark benchmark with an overall score of 109, a photo score of 114, and a video score of 98 which is very impressive! The NPU-powered AI is trained to recognize 500 scenarios in 19 categories and is able to assist the user in taking fast motion shots as well as night shots without flash using long exposures even when handheld, and looking at some of the night photos DxOMark was able to get seems to show it works well. Other camera features include 4D predictive focus, up to 102400 ISO, 960 FPS 720p video, and a 5-time hybrid zoom. Phase Detection Auto Focus is used in the main sensor and the cameras also support laser focus, deep focus, and contrast focus. Huawei claims that its "super snapshot" mode allows users to go from off to taking a photo in as little as 0.3 seconds.

Huawei P20 Pro Smartphone Kirin 970.jpg

The three cameras include:

  • 20 MP Monochrome (1/2.78”) f/1.6 27mm equivalent
  • 40 MP RGB (1/1.73”) f/1.8 27mm equivalent (10 MP photos produced using quad bayer patterning)
  • 8 MP RGB (1/4.4”) f/2.4 80mm equivalent with optical image stabilization

Enough with the covers though, what's inside this smartphone? Well, Huawei has chosen the HiSilicon Kirin 970 SoC which features four ARM Cortex-A73 cores at 2.36 GHz, four Cortex-A53 cores at 1.8 GHz, a "micro core i7" NPU (neural processing unit), and Mali G72 MP12 graphics. The SoC looks to be somewhere between the Snapdragon 820 and Snapdragon 835 in performance (according to AnandTech) is paired with 6 GB of  RAM and 128 GB of flash storage. Connectivity includes NFC, GPS, and LTE (oddly, they don't list any Wi-Fi information on the specifications page) and the P20 Pro has the usual sensor compliment (e.g. gravity, proximity, ambient light, hall, gyroscope, compass, color temperature sensor). A 4,000 mAh battery with Huawei supercharging powers the device. As of the time of writing the Huawei P20 Pro comes with Android 8.1 Oreo for the operating system.

According to Hexus.net, the Huawei P20 Pro will be available across the pond in both dual and single SIM versions starting at £799 RRP (recommended retail price) which comes out to about $1,230.93 in US dollars for those curious. Needless to say, the Huawei P20 Pro isn't going to be cheap when (or if) it hits the US but at least you get a of hardware packed into it!

I am interested to see the reviews on this one though I just recently bought the LG V30 due to my G3 dying so I'll likely be holding onto it for as long as possible as well (heh). I can't lie that I'm a bit jealous of the camera though; guess I should have waited – my corgi photos could have been so much better! (haha) What are your thoughts on the Huawei flagship?

Source: Huawei

MWC 2018: Samsung Unpacks Galaxy S9 and S9+ Phones

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2018 - 03:24 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 845, smartphone, Samsung, MWC 2018, MWC, mobile, Galaxy S9+, galaxy s9, exynos

Samsung unveiled their not-so-secret Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones at their 'unpacked' event at MWC today, coming after months of leaks and an accidental post of the launch video yesterday. So, while the existence of these new Galaxy phones was a foregone conclusion, does the final product meet expectations?

Galaxy_S9.jpg

As previously leaked, the design of the Galaxy S9/S9+ is carried over from last year, as Samsung is updating their lineup in the manner of Apple's second-year iPhone "S" refresh. What we have are devices with faster internals courtesy of the Snapdragon 845 in the U.S. and China (read our performance preview of the 845 here), Samsung's Exynos 9810 Octa in the rest of the world, and improved cameras - the latter of which was the focus of the event (sorry).

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The newest term in the smartphone space is "dual iris" thanks to Samsung's adoption of an adjustable iris on one of the dual 12MP rear cameras, which moves from f1.5 to f2.4 based on light level (the second camera is fixed at f2.4). This should result in much better exposures in low light without sacrificing daylight performance. But as vital as still camera quality is on mobile phones, as for so many is has replaced the need for a dedicated point-and-shoot, there is also video to consider. And not just any video.

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Water bottle antics from Samsung's slo-mo demonstration video

Much was made during the event of the Galaxy S9/S9+ exclusive "Super Slow-mo", which takes just 0.2 seconds of video and produces 6 seconds of the sort of slow motion you never knew you couldn't live without before seeing it...in slow motion. (Some impressively slow cat videos were also shown during the event, as well as popcorn being thrown... AND MORE.) Regardless of the usefulness of capturing 0.2 seconds of action at 960 FPS (in HD, no less) - which you can do up to 20 times per video - these slo-mo treasures can be exported right from the phone in GIF format! (Expect uploads of such videos to fill your social feeds later this spring.)

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From a design standpoint we are not seeing a new device, but that is not a bad thing in this case. Fans would always like to see the next big thing, of course, but the S8 was already an advanced design when it launched a year ago, marking the start of the all-display trend that Apple joined later on with the iPhone X. Speaking of displays, we know that Samsung has a killer screen already with the Galaxy S8/S8+, and on paper the S9/S9+ have identical 5.8-inch, 1440x2960 18.5:9 aspect AMOLED with the S9 and slightly larger 6.2 inches of the same on the S9+, both still covered in Gorilla Glass 5.

S9_Iris.jpg

Samsung's cluster of camera and iris scanning tech is hidden from view

Two obvious nods to Apple's confusingly-named "X" handset were also introduced by Samsung, with both face/iris unlocking and animated emojis. First, it will be possible to unlock your Galaxy S9/S9+ by looking at it, but have no fear as the fingerprint reader remains - and is no longer next to the camera sensor on the back!

Fingerprint.jpg

The fingerprint scanner is now below the camera sensors

Far more important, as everyone knows: animated emoji. Animoji is not the only facial-recognition-powered animated emoji game in town anymore, though Samsung's implementation of this is a little different since it is creating an avatar based on your own face, which you can then customize. The result is something possibly a little more realistic than an early 2000s sports game create-a-player, but with considerably less work. Progress!

March 16 is the release date for both the Galaxy S9 and S9+, with retail prices starting at $719.99 for the S9 and $839.99 for the S9+. Pre-orders are up now on Samsung's official web store.

Source: Samsung

The SDM845 Reference Platform and CPU Results

The Snapdragon 845 is Qualcomm’s latest flagship mobile platform, officially announced on December 6 and known officially as the SDM845 (moving from the MSMxxxx nomenclature of previous iterations). At a recent media event we had a chance to go hands-on with a development platform device for a preview of this new Snapdragon's performance, the results of which we can now share. Will the Snapdragon 845 be Qualcomm's Android antidote to Apple's A11? Read on to find out!

SDM845_Platform.jpg

The SDM845 QRD (Qualcomm Reference Design) Device

While this article will focus on CPU and GPU performance with a few known benchmarks, the Snapdragon 845 is of course a full mobile platform which combines 8-core Kryo 385 CPU, Adreno 630 graphics, Hexagon 685 DSP (which includes the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine), Spectra 280 image processor, X20 LTE modem, etc. The reference device was packaged like a typical 5.5-inch Android smartphone, which can only help to provide a real-world application of thermal management during benchmarking.


Qualcomm Reference Design Specifications:

  • Baseband Chipset: SDM845
  • Memory: 6 GB LPDDR4X (PoP)
  • Display: 5.5-inch 1440x2560
  • Camera:
    • Front: IMX320 12 MP Sensor
    • Rear: IMX386 12 MP Sensor
  • Audio:
    • No 3.5 mm headset jack (Analog over USB-C)
    • 4 Digital Microphones
  • Connector: USB 3.1 Type-C
    • DisplayPort over USB-C

At the heart of the Snapdragon 845 is the octa-core Kryo 385 CPU, configured with 4x performance cores and 4x efficiency cores, and offering clock speeds of up to 2.8 GHz. In comparison the Snapdragon 835 had a similar 8x CPU configuration (Kryo 280) clocked up to 2.45 GHz. The SDM845 is produced on 10 nm LPP process technology, while the SD835 (MSM8998) was the first to be manufactured at 10 nm (LPE). It is not surprising that Qualcomm is getting higher clock speeds from this new chip at the same process node, and increases in efficiency (the new 10nm LPP FinFET process) should theoretically result in similar - or possibly even lower - power draw from these higher clocks.

Continue reading our performance preview of the new Snapdragon 845 mobile platform!!

Identity theft? Ya, there's an app for that

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2017 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, security, google play, google, Android

Hopefully you are already well aware that a large number of free Android apps slurp up a lot of personal information about you, however you might not realize the extent of the issue.  Researchers have just released a report which documents the amount of personal data that popular apps such as Uber, Tinder, Skype, Twitter, Spotify, and Snapchat gather about you, which The Inquirer linked to.  These apps collect and then share your name, phone number, e-mail address, login, IP address and device ID with targeted advertisers, something that many of the apps do not make clear when you install or use them.  That data can be used for some rather interesting things, such as tracking the physical location of your phone, so the next time you are installing an app on an mobile phone of any flavour you might want to consider what it may be sharing especially in light of the recently revealed Uber hack.

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"In case you're wondering, yes, there's a good chance at least some of your Android apps have tracked you rather more than you expect."

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Source: The Inquirer

Huawei Announces Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | October 16, 2017 - 10:23 AM |
Tagged: SoC, smartphone, phone, Oreo, mobile, Mate 10 Pro, Mate 10, Kirin 970, Huawei, Android 8, Android

Huawei has announced the successor(s) to the Mate 9 smartphone with the new Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, which feature a new "3D Glass Body" industrial design along with the new Kirin 970 processor and other improvements.

Mate 10_Front and Back.jpg

The key features from Huawei include:

  • Kirin 970, the world’s first AI processor for smartphones with a dedicated Neural Network Processing Unit (NPU)
  • A 3D Glass Body featuring a barely-there-bezel, HUAWEI FullView Display and HDR10 supported technology for intensely vivid and brighter colors
  • TÜV Fast-Charge Safety Certified HUAWEI SuperCharge and 4000 mAh battery with AI-powered Battery Management
  • New Leica Dual Camera with SUMMILUX-H lenses, with both featuring  an aperture of f/1.6, and intelligent photography including AI-powered Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition and AI-powered Bokeh Effect;
  • An all-new, simplified EMUI 8.0 based on Android 8.0

Mate 10 Pro_Blue Front.jpg

The Mate 10 Pro features an 18:9 OLED display

The Mate 10 is a 5.9-inch device with a 16:9 IPS display supporting HDR10, while the Mate 10 Pro offers an 18:9 OLED display (also with HDR10 support).

The new dual-camera system is again a joint effort with Leica, and combines a 12 MP color sensor with a 20 MP monochrome sensor, using lenses with a aperture of f/1.6 - and Huawei says this aperture is the "world's largest" for a smartphone. The digital zoom and bokeh effects are AI-powered, along with real-time scene and object recognition.

Mate 10 Pro_Camera.jpg

The new Kirin 970 combines an 8-core CPU with a 12-core Mali-G72 GPU, and includes an NPU (neural processing unit) for AI-related tasks as well as a new dual ISP for the AI-powered camera features mentioned above.

Both phones include a 4000 mAh battery which offers "smart battery management" which Huawei states "understands user behavior and intelligently allocates resources to maximize battery life". The new TÜV-certified fast charging feature supports low-voltage charging of 4.5V / 5A, and Huawei states this will charge the phones from 1% to 20% in 10 minutes, or 1% to 58% in 30 minutes.

Mate 10_Group.jpg

The Mate 10 lineup

The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro ship with Android 8.0 and a new "simplified" version of Huawei's EMUI interface. Pricing and availablity for the U.S. was not revealed, but the phones will go on sale internationally starting this month for the Mate 10, and mid-November for the Mate 10 Pro.

Mate 10 Pro_Group.jpg

The Mate 10 Pro lineup

While we don't have U.S. pricing yet, European pricing for the Mate 10 with 64GB of storage and 4GB memory is set at €699, and the Mate 10 Pro with 128GB/6GB will be €799.

Source: HUAWEI

Google Announces Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | October 4, 2017 - 04:32 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, pOLED, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 2, pixel, phone, Oreo, google, DxOMark, Android 8, AMOLED

Google has announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, the second-gen versions of the Nexus-replacement Pixel which launched last October. We looked at that first Pixel phone, which was the premier Android device at the time, and these new Pixel 2 devices hope to place Google at the top of the heap again (with stiff competition from Samsung, of course).

Pixel 2 XL.jpg

The Google Pixel 2 XL (image credit: Google)

The Pixel 2 arrives in a standard version with a 5-inch 1920x1080 AMOLED display, and an XL version with a new 6-inch pOLED display with 2880x1440 resolution. Both phones are powered by the 8-core Snapdragon 835 and feature 4GB of RAM and the option of either 64GB or 128GB of storage (no card slot on either phone).

While the design of the Pixel 2 is largely unchanged compared to last year, with large bezels above and below the display, the Pixel 2 XL comes closer to the ever-popular “all screen” look with its smaller top/bottom bezels.

Pixel 2.jpg

The Google Pixel 2 (image credit: Google)

Both phones offer dual front-facing stereo speakers as well, unlike iPhones which have to combine an earpiece speaker and bottom-firing speaker for their stereo effect. The battery capacities are a little different than last year with both Pixel 2 phones, with a 2700 mAh battery (down from 2770 mAh) in the Pixel 2, and a 3520 mAh battery (up from 3450 mAh) in the Pixel 2 XL.

It’s all about camera

Once again, Google is proclaiming the Pixel 2 camera as the best in the industry, and again this is based on testing from DxOMark which has it ranked #1 overall among smartphones. with an incredible 98 out of a possible 100 in their scoring system.

DxOMark.jpg

Image credit: DxOMark

Both sizes of Pixel 2 offer a single 12.2 MP rear camera (sorry, no dual cameras here) with 1.4μm pixels, laser + dual pixel phase detection autofocus, OIS, and a f/1.8 aperture. Fans of simulated lens bokeh have no fear, as Google’s dual-pixel sensor design is said to allow for better portrait-style photos than the original Pixel. Video of up to 4k (but only at 30 FPS) is supported, and an 8 MP f/2.4 camera handles front-facing duties.

More on those new displays

Google has improved the display technology with the Pixel 2, as both versions now offer wide color gamut support (95% DCI-P3 coverage from the Pixel 2, and a full 100% DCI-P3 from the Pixel 2 XL). The displays are now ‘always on’, a handy feature that makes sense from a power standpoint when working with AMOLED panels (and hard to give up once you’ve grown accustomed to it as I did with the Galaxy S8+). Last but not least, covering these new displays is Corning Gorilla Glass 5, which is the most drop-resistant version to date (and is also found on the Galaxy S8/S8+ among other phones).

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A comparison of LCD and OLED technologies (image credit: Android Authority)

The Pixel 2 XL’s “pOLED” display designation suggests a polymer OLED panel, which has the advantage of being much thinner than traditional glass OLED substrates. (Read more about AMOLED vs. P-OLED here.)

The Pixel 2 phones ship with the new Android 8.0 Oreo, with the promise of “minimum” 3 years of OS and security updates. Vanilla Google phone owners (previously Nexus) have enjoyed being the first to new OS updates, and that should still be the case with these new devices. And if you are coming over from another platform - say, Apple, for instance - a “quick switch” adapter is in every box to help transfer data quickly between phones.

Pixel 2 Switch.jpg

The Quick Switch Adapter in action (image credit: Google)

Google is offering the (unlocked) phone for sale directly from their website, and have partnered with Verizon as the exclusive mobile carrier as they did with the original Pixel. The price? $649 gets you the 5-inch Pixel 2 with 64GB of storage, or double that to 128GB for $100 more. The Pixel 2 XL is available for $849 for the 64GB capacity, with the same $100 premium for a 128GB version. There are also four color options this year, with the whimsical naming fully intact from the previous generation: Just Black, Clearly White, Kinda Blue, and Black & White.

Oh, and one more thing: the 3.5 mm headphone jack is gone.

Source: Google
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple

A New Standard

With a physical design that is largely unchanged other than the addition of a glass back for wireless charging support, and featuring incremental improvements to the camera system most notably with the Plus version, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are interesting largely due to the presence of a new Apple SoC. The upcoming iPhone X (pronounced "ten") stole the show at Apple's keynote annoucement earlier this month, but the new A11 Bionic chip powers all 2017 iPhone models, and for the first time Apple has a fully custom GPU after their highly publicized split with Imagination Technologies, makers of the PowerVR graphics found in previous Apple SoCs.

A11_Bionic_Keynote.jpg

The A11 Bionic powering the 2017 iPhones contains Apple’s first 6-core processor, which is comprised of two high performance cores (code-named ‘Monsoon’) and four high efficiency cores (code-named ‘Mistral’). Hugely important to its performance is the fact that all six cores are addressable with this new design, as Apple mentions in their description of the SoC:

"With six cores and 4.3 billion transistors, A11 Bionic has four efficiency cores that are up to 70 percent faster than the A10 Fusion chip, and two performance cores that are up to 25 percent faster. The CPU can even harness all six cores simultaneously when you need a turbo boost."

It was left to improvments to IPC and clock speed to boost the per-core performance of previous Apple SoCs, such as the previous A10 Fusion part, which contained a quad-core CPU split in an even arrangement of 2x performance + 2x efficiency cores. Apple's quad-core effort did not affect app performance beyond the two performance cores, with additional cores limited to background tasks in real-world use (though the A10 Fusion did not provide any improvement to battery life over previous efforts, as we saw).

A11_iFixit.jpg

The A11 Bionic on the iPhone 8 system board (image credit: iFixit)

Just how big an impact this new six-core CPU design will have can be instantly observed with the CPU benchmarks to follow, and on the next page we will find out how Apple's in-house GPU solution compare to both the previous A10 Fusion PowerVR graphics, and market-leading Qualcomm Adreno 540 found in the Snapdragon 835. We will begin with the CPU benchmarks.

Continue reading our look at the performance of Apple's A11 SoC!

ASUS Launches the ZenFone 4 Max Smartphone

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2017 - 12:03 PM |
Tagged: ZenFone 4 Max, zenfone, Snapdragon 430, smartphone, ips, dual camera, asus, Android

The midrange phone market has a new contendor with the ZenFone 4 Max, launched today by ASUS and featuring some impressive specifications - particularly in the camera department - for an unlocked device with an MSRP of $199.

ZF4Max_1.jpg

The phone offers a 5.5-inch display - though likely due to the price target it is just 1280x720 - and the metal and glass construction gives it a more premium (if familiar) look. It's the back of the device where the dual camera sensors really set this apart from the majority of ~$200 unlocked phones: a pair of 13 MP sensors reside behind both a wide-angle and telephoto lens, which allows for more flexibility in composing shots.

ZF4Max_3.jpg

"ZenFone 4 Max features an advanced dual-camera system designed to take your mobile photography to new heights. Its 13MP main camera is equipped with the wide, F2.0 aperture lens to capture clearer photos. Its 120° wide-angle camera lets your fit more scenery and people in the frame for dramatic landscape shots, better group photos, and a more convenient photography experience in confined indoor spaces."

The application processor is the Snapdragon 430, a capable 8-core design with Adreno 505 graphics which also crucially offers 2x image signal processors for a dual camera setup. One area that is decidedly not midrange is the battery - which is a whopping 5000 mAh (!). Not only does this massive capacity allow for the unusual feature of turning your smartphone into a battery pack to charge other devices, but it should provide some really outstanding real-world battery life as well. The onboard Snapdragon 430 supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, so refilling that huge battery should be efficient as well.

ZF4Max_2.jpg

The unlocked ZenFone 4 Max is available now for $199 on Amazon.com in a 32GB capacity.

Source: ASUS