Sony SmartWatch 2 Hardware Review

Sony SmartWatch 2 Hardware Review

Apr 21, 2014

The smartwatch space is one of those segments that one can’t afford to glance away from; when one looks back, it might be disconcerting to see the new models and proofs of concept that pop out seemingly every other second. Some companies, like Sony, are already building multiple iterations at this point. We just got the opportunity to formally look at the SmartWatch 2 a few months out of the gate, and it is an interesting ride, to be sure.

The stock hardware has improved… not that the original was lousy. The stock rubber straps didn’t exactly proclaim luxury, but the ability to get other set was a bit calming. The watch piece itself has Sony stylings all over it, with the sleek chromish angling, end-to-end screen use and covered micro-USB port on the left side.. The square face is punctuated by a the “SONY” brand name at the top and three virtual buttons (back, home and three-dot menu) at the bottom. Rounding out the look is a chrome push button on the right, that looks like a winder on a “regular” watch.

2014-04-19 12.25.21

The device is light enough to be used comfortably; I wear a business/sports watch socially, and this one feels even more natural on the wrist in comparison, so much so that it’s easy to forget. When on and in its rest state, the default watch face has dark undertones, and hitting the on button lights the face up further, and activated the home button. Anyone familiar with Android devices (or smartphones in general) should find the menu quite intuitive; tapping the home button opens up the menu, where installed apps and the settings menu reside.

Pairing the phone via bluetooth is easy, and involves (in my case) the installation of two apps from the Play Store. After this, the user has access to the specially crafted apps available… stuff like Gmail, music and Twitter can be installed via the companion Android app.

ssw5

In practice, the gadget works as one would expect. After receiving an email on my phone, a notification vibrates through the phone and a summary is posted on the screen. The notification isn’t too startling, but it isn’t shy either. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to figure out how to remove installed apps (via the device). I did like the ability to customize watch faces and bands.

The biggest barrier to adoption, is the same one facing most smartwatches in this still niche space: need. For all the cool (geek?) factor, the need for a smartphone within range might slightly curb the mobile benefits. I’d also like to see the consolidation of companion apps needed. Of course, there is no such thing like too many apps; while there are quite a few to choose from, like Agent Smith in the Matrix series, we can always do with “more.”

Still, I’d consider the SSW2 to be one of the best items in a sector that still needs some refining overall, and that Sony is positioning itself well to reap future benefits.

LG G Flex Hardware Review

LG G Flex Hardware Review

Apr 17, 2014

As we mentioned earlier, LG Electronics largely elbowed its way to Android prominence with it latest batch of devices. We had an opportunity to formally look at LG’s G Flex, and the experience was just as eye-opening.

Gotta admit, the internals are juicy. It sports a 2.26 GHz quad-core Snapdragon chip, and packs in all the radios and stuff one would expect in a high-end Android phone: Bluetooth 4.0 LE, wi-fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS. The cameras are definitely not slouchy, with a 13 MP autofocus snapper in the rear and a 2.1 MP unit in the back. Top of the line requisites like LTE and a 3,500 mAh battery are present to partner with the 32 GB memory.

Cool innards aside, the physical presentation is where it will most likely stand out initially for most. It cuts an imposing figure, and wears the label “phablet” (yeah, I said it) quite well, embodied in the 6.32″ x 3.21″ x 0.31″ flex2 and stated 6.24-ounces frame. But it’s The Curve that visually defines this phone. The phone features a tangible parabola that tapers uncompromising into the 1280 x 720, 6″ HD flexible OLED Gorilla Glassed display.

The device is sleek, with its signature curved chassis and slim profile being easy on the eyes. The USB port is centered at the bottom, and the sides are delightfully bereft of buttons, as the ON button is placed on the back. The grey finishing defines it quite well, and the device feels natural in the right hand despite its non-diminutive size.

And y’all just have to forgive me for getting a bit caught up in the screen. It’s supposed to be indicative of the future of curved displays, a feature that is supposed to be enhance the enjoyment quotient. Coupled with the excellent screen, the whole structure does seem to work, though I feel those looking for something that changes the fabric of life as we know it might be a little let down. In other words, the flexible screen (along with the self-healing capabilities of the back) works well, but might not yet be a set-apart feature just yet.

The software suite also sets it apart. There is the needed Google suite, but above and beyond, that LG makes the crafty (and daresay, necessary) move to ensure customers have an opportunity to get immersed in LG’s massive consumer electronics ecosystem. Like the G Pad, the Flex works with other select LG devices and electronics. Miracast compatibility is another plus, and the device comes upgradeable to Android KitKat. In real-life use, the device is quite fluid, and doesn’t stutter under heavy lifting, and everything runs smooth.

Pauses? Folks coming from the G2 or other bigger flagships, might not be as enamored; I would have loved a bigger battery, and I will whine about available accessories. Still, it’s the first phablet I have ever wanted to be around for an extended period of time.

Trust me… that says a lot.

LG G Pad 8.3 Hardware Review

LG G Pad 8.3 Hardware Review

Apr 7, 2014

LG Electronics has been on a tear lately. It has made itself quite well known in Android circles; its Optimus line represents one of the most encompassing smartphone collections, and being tapped by Google to help create the Nexus 4 definitely pushed the South Korean electronics house to the front of the Android pack. Being tapped to make the sequel Nexus 5 all but reinforced its status as a premium device maker.

I just got the opportunity to review the LG G Pad 8.3, which is the company’s entry into the mid-size tablet space. At first glance, there isn’t a whole lot to not fall in love with.

The device is pretty light, quite thin,and looks sleek in the black and gray trim. The screen is rich, with a hint of framed bezel that is thicker at the ends; the front-facing, 1.3 MP camera balances out the 5 MP rear one at the back. There are two speaker grills in the back, and the Verizon-branded review unit sports a micro SD port at the top (right between an infrared emitter and standard headphone jack), which allows the internal 16 GB be supported by an external 64 GB. It’s light, at just under 12 ounces, and is shaped at 8.54 x 4.98 x 0.33 inches, which makes it infinitely wieldable. The volume rocker and “on” button are on the right, while the microphone and USB port are nestled at the bottom.

gpad2

Turning on the unit is what gets the party really started. LG advertises an HD screen, and it surely wears the crown well, with warm, rich representations that actually make one want to hold the device and stare. The 273 ppi, 1920 x 1200 pixel screen is rendered exceptionally well. In action, the G Pad is pretty snappy, which is what one would expect from a 2 GB RAM Android 4.2.2 device rocking a quad-core Snapdragon 1.7 GHz chip. Setup was easy, and I was able to get the wi-fi and bluetooth 4.0 low energy going fairly quickly. The included GPS, Miracast and VZW 4G functionality are welcome connectivity options.

Software wise, the G Pad offers Google Apps and the power of Google Play. While I’ll always prefer raw Android, LG’s skin is fairly unostentatious, even if there are some VZW/LG bloatware to contend with. I did like the Qpair idea, in that it helps to connect to standard Android devices, and the ability of the tablet to interface with some LG electronics.

So… what’s the “Jamie Foxx screeching stop sign” pause moment? It just might be pricing, which seems to be hovering around roughly $300 to $330 online. Not too unfair of a price considering what one is getting, but with the Android OEM race to the pricing floor, excellent tabs like the G Pad might get lost in all the cheapness. I also thought the battery life was jut okay.

Still, it’s one of the better tabs I have looked at, packs a lot of functionality in its purposefully slender frame, and is backed by the coolest kid on the block.

It’s hard to say no.

Kobo Arc 10 HD Review

Kobo Arc 10 HD Review

Feb 24, 2014

Kobo is probably slightly more known for e-books than hardware. Still, the company has been working on building its Android device rep, and its newest tablet, the Kobo Arc 10 HD tablet gives us an opportunity to see what is on the table.

Specs-wise, the Arc 10 is not shabby in the least. The review unit comes in black, and is a true 10-inch screen. More to that, it rocks a 2560 x 1600 LCD screen, and, frankly, it’s hard not to stare. It is inviting, renders colors well and reflects its 300 ppi quite nicely. It sports two rear facing speakers, a decent 1.3 MP camera that is advertised as being capable of picking up video in 720p. Internally, this device is a relative screamer, packing in 1.8GHz quad-core Tegra 4 processor, which males an admirable mockery of his being used only as a book reader. One has to be satisfied with the 16 GB internal storage, because it doesn’t have expandable memory, but the 2 GB RAM might alleviate that pain.arc1 It also has a mini-HDMI port and two physical toggles for sound and on/off. This is all encased in a 9.96 x 6.77 x 0.39 inch frame. Bluetooth 4.0 and Miracast support are included.

Now, in hand, the Arc 10 feels every bit of the 22 ounces it comes in as; it probably won’t be described as dainty. It is a solid device, and feels like a quality device.

It comes with the coveted suite of Google Apps, with the crown jewel Google Play on major display. There are also Kobo apps (with the Kobo Store supplying e-book needs), and the Kobo skin isn’t too invasive, especially on top of Android OS 4.2.2. The software comes together quite well, with little hint of lag, even with graphics-intensive games. With basic reading, it came pretty close to 9 hours of mostly onscreen time; the experience is what one would expect of a premium device overall.

I think the camera could be better, especially during videochat, and, as noted, it might me a tad hard on the wrist. The biggest issue, though, is that at $400, it might get overlooked by folks more interested in a cheap deal than build quality.

Still, it’s hard not to like the overall product; it represents Android well, and has an opportunity to put Kobo on the map.

Paick Noble Power Bank Review

Paick Noble Power Bank Review

Feb 18, 2014

I’ll say it out loud: the first person or entity that makes a battery for smart devices that is self-replenishing (or simply has insanely long usage life) will be the richest person/company in history.

Myth? In the short term, most likely. But again, this void is what Paick is trying to fill with its Noble Power Bank.

The review unit personifies the design intentions, with its smooth aluminum housing and slim profile. It comes rather exquisitely packaged, and has a removable grey anti-slip bumper and white micro USB cord. Specific to size, it is 4.65 x 2.83 x 0.53 inches and just under 5.3 ounces. Physically, it is noticeably smaller than my HTC EVO 4G LTE, which makes it very pocketable.

Towards the one end, there is an interesting, dark-colored pop-up interface, and just north of that is the button the controls the pop-up. In this raised portion is a charging port flanked by 2 USB ports; there are also LED lights paick1embedded in the cover. All together, it looks kind of slick in an unassuming kind of way, mostly siver-ish with dark, hard plastic accents.

Getting the Noble going requires charging it, and to do it’s job, the Noble packs quite the appetite. I charged the review unit overnight before getting the LED lights to indicate a full charge on its polymer-lithium ion battery. Using it made up for the prep time; this bad boy boasts 6000mAh capacity and 5V 1A/2.1A output, and in my informal testing, it did not feel like empty chest-thumping. Tapping the touch interface after connecting via one of the USB ports initiates charging, and it charged my depleted devices just about as fast as a wall charger, and managed two full charges (though neither was from a completely dead phone). It charges two devices simultaneously in an efficient manner too.

If I had to whine, it would be about the pop-up. I love the combo dust protection and slick press-to-initiate mechanism, but the extra moving pieces do give me pause; the pop up button could be a bit more robust. Call me greedy, but I’d also like something as crazy as a retractable USB cord to reduce the need for detachable pieces.

All said though, the price-to-functionality quotient is admirable, and it’s hard to find a reason not to own this accessory.

The Noble is available from Amazon for an introductory price of $49.99

Powerocks Magicstick Extended Battery Review

Powerocks Magicstick Extended Battery Review

Feb 12, 2014

For all the wonderful progress we have made with mobile technology, it sometimes feels like we are still so restricted. We have these connected pocket computers, and speakers, and portable hard drives and more; the one thing they all have in common is they will eventually need a power source.

For all our progress, battery life on our gadgets haven’t — or can’t — keep up.

It’s all good though. Electrical outlets are plentiful. Mostly. Even better, a pocket power generator that can give a reasonable boost in a pinch, negating the need for extra batteries or hunting for power sources.

Enter Magicstick Extended Battery.

One has to give it style points for presentation. It is no bigger than a medium sized flashlight, coming in at 3.2 mag1ounces with dimensions of 3.6 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches. The silvery finish of the review unit highlights smooth metallic feeling finish; the entire piece feels weighted in hand. One might be forgiven for thinking it is a flashlight, with the glassed end and hand strap and ports for charging and discharging at the other, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Getting going involves charging the piece itself, long enough to for the LED lights to denote full capacity. After that, it’s as simple as attaching the device to be juiced to the charger via the included micro USB cable, and letting the 2800 mAh capacity battery work. How much charging power is left is also measured by LED lighting.

In real world testing, it performed proficiently, able to effect a full charge from 20% in under an hour.

As an added piece of utility, it also has flashlight capabilities, with a toggle button that can also invoke flashing patterns. The controls sequence was intuitive to begin with, bu work well with double taps. I don’t know how enduser-serviceable the bulb is, but for extra functionality, it is certainly welcome. I did not like the fact that the USB cord is separate, but it doe come with a nifty carrying pouch.

The Magicstick’s best attribute, unashamedly, is the price, and it is a hard attribute to pass up. It comes in eight different colors, officially supports 7 types of devices and comes with a warranty.

The Magistick is available on Amazon for $30.

G-Pop Bluetooth Speaker Review

G-Pop Bluetooth Speaker Review

Feb 11, 2014

G-Project has carved a respectable reputation in the wireless speaker market, and we got the opportunity to check out its ultra-portable bluetooth speaker, the G-Pop. Finding out if it strikes the perfect balance between price, functionality and sound output is a worthy endeavor in and of itself.

It comes in a short cylindrical form (less than 3.5 inches tall), well rounded without being paunchy, solid in hand while avoiding unnecessary heft. The black review unit is mostly comprised of hard plastic, with rubberized and chrome accents. Running down one end is a prominent strip that has LED, play/speakerphone and volume buttons; at the bottom are the power button, pair button and auxiliary toggle, while at the top there is a a recessed hook than can be used to secure the speaker, say, to a hiking bag or bike. There is also a port for charging and/or wired connection that is hidden by a flap.gpop1

The G-Pop, size-wise, revels in its portability. While it would probably look awkward in all but the baggiest of pockets, it is infinitely at home on a go-bag and/or purse.

Pairing it after the courtesy charge is as easy as turning it on and initiating the pairing sequence to an eligible device. The sound quality is, frankly, admirable. it packs a relatively serious audio punch for something as small as it is. The design seems to encourage balanced transmission of sound, and the speakers handled volume instructions well. The clarity is okay, though it feels a bit soft on base. For folks that might be looking to get some wired use, or some functionality out of non-bluetooth enabled device, the auxiliary cord that works with standard 3.55mm jacks will be quite useful.

One of the biggest draws has to be the price. Packing in such value helps one overcome concerns pertaining to sound quality or the non-universal nature of the wired component. It even came close to the advertised 8 hours of play time, which, frankly, shocking enough to make it compelling on that fact alone.

The G-Pop can be obtained for 39.99 from the G-Project website or Amazon.com.

JBL Pulse Hardware Review

JBL Pulse Hardware Review

Jan 31, 2014

We had an opportunity to check out sound maven JBL’s Charge Wireless Speakers, and it was a pleasant experience. As such, we were happy to check out its sibling, the JBL Pulse Wireless Speakers.

Like your run-of-the-mill brothers, the Charge and the Pulse bear plenty of familial similarities. They are both cylindrical, but the latter has more deliberately tapered ends. The black exterior underscored the solid feel, with mesh-like surface (a departure from the fused finishing of the Charge) mostly preventing the accessory from looking cheap. On one end are buttons: pairing, power and light control. The other is bare and serves as the base when upright. Along the body are ports for coaxial and micro-usb cables. For comparative purposes, the Pulse is just a shade taller than the Charge, coming in at 7 inches tall and less than a pound and a half in weight.

Powering it up is as simple as connecting the included adapter/cable combo to an electric source; powering it on, I daresay, is almost the coolest part. The specs sheet boldly pronounces LED lights, but the actual display is pretty surprising. It boasts scores ofpulse2 LED lights that run around and along the base. When the device is on, those lights all come on in a dizzying explosion of color that is as once a bit gimmicky and inexplicably commanding at the same time. The light patterns can be toggled or turned off by the button at the top, and most sequences react to volume. It’s an interesting feature, and one that I actually enjoyed more than I would have envisaged. Additionally, the JBL MusicFlow app allows the lights to be controlled as well as providing an easy way to adjust sound performance from Android devices.

As soon as bluetooth pairing was attempted it connected seamlessly in seconds, and it’s also NFC-enabled.

The sound doesn’t have the high level of bass some people dearly crave; compared to the Charge, it gentler in that aspect, but it still holds it own sound quality-wise. It does provide great volume, and in our informal testing, it actually beat the advertised 5-hr usage time. It worked just as well as a wired speaker.

I did miss the portable USB charging feature from the Charge; I also think the app could be a bit more intuitive. All in all though, it falls just within what I would term acceptable limits of reasonable portability, and the overall value is hard to ignore.

The Pulse is available from Amazon for $199.

Sony Xperia Z Hardware Review

Sony Xperia Z Hardware Review

Jan 24, 2014

Sony got a lot of kudos for its foray into Android, and the Xperia Z has worn the hat of flagship device well. With new Sony devices on the horizon, we got a belated look at this device.

First, a few stats… not shabby for a 2013 flagship: 5″ screen fit into a 139 x 71 x 7.9mm body, front-facing 2.2 MP camera paired with a 13.1 one in the rear. The screen has a resolution of 1920×1080, with Dragontrail glass upfront and Gorilla in the back.

Internally, the Z packs a Snapdragon S4 chip, 16 GB of flash memory and 2 GB RAM, and can use up to 64 GB of expandable memory.

The hardware is is gorgeous to look at. It’s a stately slab, with deliberate edges and corners that lend themselves to its appearance. It feels great in hand, and just looks as though it’s comfortable in with its non-diminutive size. The weight is spread well, and the all-black lends to its allure.SX1

The software suite offers the usual suite of Android staples: Maps, Gmail, Chrome and Music are sandwiched by T-Mobile stockware and some Sony standard apps like Playstation and memory stroking Walkman. The most pleasant revelation for me was the realization how thin Sony’s user interface is; the phone’s UI is relatively clean, and perhaps a bit more reminiscent of stock Android than, say HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz. Of course, the T-Mobile stuff cannot be deleted on a stock device, but disabling is possible. Most the system processes are laid out in standard Android OS fashion.

Of special interest to me were the Sony apps; how will Sony set itself apart from the sizable Android OEM crowd? The Walkman app is the first stock Android music app I’d use on a daily basis, and it’s not just because of nostalgia. It’s nicely done, with a look that fits the device. The Playstation App is similarly regal with bluish undertones and has a nice selection of unique games.

Call me crazy, but I expected the device to be a bit zippier. It didn’t gasp, but there was a stutter now and then. I wasn’t able to to test call quality, but the audio quality without earbuds was not as pure to me as some of its contemporaries.

In smartphones time, the Z is pretty mature, but still manages to represent Sony particularly well. With new devices from Sony due out at any second, the Z reminds us why we like Sony, and why choice is ALWAYS a good thing.

Bracketron NanoTek Stand Hardware Review

Bracketron NanoTek Stand Hardware Review

Jan 16, 2014

We drop quite a lot of money on mobile devices. With good reason, too. They are the ultimate business, entertainment and everything in-between tools. But after purchase, it just makes sense to dress them up right. Protection. Accessibility. Extended functionality. And more.

Some accessories promise to give a combination of features, and this is just what the Universal NanoTek Stand from Bracketron purports to do. It comes in silver or black (we received a silver review unit).

The stand itself comes in very subtle but strong appearance. The main stem is made out of aircraft grade aluminum, and curves into a short sided V-shape. A wide T-shape is cut into the metal frame for cabling, and each end has black padding. Nothing is sharp or overly demonstrative, with soft edges and an appreciated lack of glinty touches.nano2

What is truly intriguing is the advertised NanoTek technology. It works in a slick way as a soft adhesive, so that a smartphone leans back in the the cradle, held by only this black material. It’s pretty slick, and makes for easy placement and retrieval. The adhesive is strong enough to hold my cased HTC EVO 4G LTE, though not permanently; really weighted devices tend not to be held in place, but larger phones, such as an uncased Sony Xperia Z, work just fine without leftover residue. In my experience, it tended to help to wipe the padding periodically.

The T-shape slot for charging cable isn’t effective with my phone in the upright position (the charging port is the left, not the bottom), but works swimmingly with devices that are more conventionally constructed. It does work with my phone in landscape orientation.

In practice, the stand is reasonably sturdy, balanced on flat surfaces and feels durable. Because of its portability and design, using with a keyboard or as a consumption holder is possible. In this, it provides multiple usfage opportunities, good for a somewhat permanently placed accessory or even as a part of a go bag.

It’s another fine tool from a trusted company, and it is always pleasant to try something so small but yet relatively useful.

The NanoTek Stand can be obtained from the Bracketron website for $29.99, and elsewhere, like Amazon for $18.86 before shipping. It comes with a year-long warranty.

Pebble SmartWatch Hardware Review

Pebble SmartWatch Hardware Review

Jan 9, 2014

Wearable tech is all the new rage. From Google Glass to the Galaxy Gear, everyone seems to want a piece of the on person action. Now, sadly we haven’t seen any Android powered belts buckles or tennis shoes quite yet, but we have seen an affordable but amazing SmartWatch called the Pebble. The product of a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, this independent Palo Alto, CA company developed a SmartWatch which costs way less than the Galaxy Gear but sports many of the same capabilities. Additionally, as a wrist watch, it has comfort, functionality and style.

In light of Pebble announcing the Pebble Steel at CES 2014 just recently, the regular Pebble SmartPhone is still an awesome option. A year after its initial release, the Pebble SmartWatch is available at retailers such as Best Buy or online at Amazon. It’s capable of interacting with both iOS and Android via BlueTooth, though Android is where it really takes the cake. It also comes it at a much lower cost than the Samsung SmartWatch, and even the Pebble Steel comes in about $50 less than its Samsung competition.

20140108_114550

The watch itself may come off as unimpressive and a cheap knock off at first. The LED watch only appears in grayscale, lacking bright colors on the display. The colors on the Pebble is on the device itself, with the outline area around the screen coming in any of the 5 colors offered. The Pebble also lacks out of box, many of the popular features that a First Party device would have, such as the ability to answer one’s phone via the watch.

But where the Pebble SmartWatch really comes to life, is through the various first and third party apps that exist for the device. The PEbble SmartWatch prides itself on being an opensource device, with information on their website as to how to develop for the watch. Many of these third party apps add in functionalities such as the ability to answer the phone, to adding a calendar, pedometer, the ability to control the music on one’s phone, or a whole mess of other features. Pandora and some other apps are also coming to the PEbble SmartWatch, as announced at CES 2014. These apps give the watch more functionalities than other wearable tech items, while still looking cooler on your wrist and your wallet.

20140108_114603

Setting up the device with an Android phone takes almost no time at all. Much like many BlueTooth devices, it’s important to make sure both are discoverable, but I was able to go from unboxing the phone to having it work properly to read a test text from my wife in about 5 minutes. It also has an impressive range with which it will still notify the wearer of any activity on their phone. I was able to get notification of my wife calling me from when I was across the office.

This device is capable of really giving a user a true hands free experience. The particular app I downloaded to answer the phone will actually answer the phone in speaker mode. This device will also send your emails, text messages, Google Hangout notifications and even Facebook replies to your watch. There’s also apps that will send Twitter notifications to your Pebble, as well as many other notifications and utilities. The Pebble Watch does seem to have it all.

pebble-kickstarter

The Pebble SmartWatch is probably one of the better devices out there in terms of cost, functionality, usability, operations and overall cool factor. Out of the box, it may not look like much, but an open source device always has an army of ambitious and smart people behind it. The Pebble is no exception to that, boasting a wide array of difference watch faces and apps that will do just about anything. Once you get your hands on one of these devices, it may be hard to imagine what life was like without it.

You can find more information about the Pebble, or purchase it here.

MOGA Hero Power and MOGA Pro Power Hardware Review

MOGA Hero Power and MOGA Pro Power Hardware Review

Nov 28, 2013

MOGA’s first generation of controllers are ones that I continue to swear by for their comfort and versatiliity. The Pocket’s lack of HID support and buttons hurts it, but it’s still a great portable controller, and there’s plenty of MOGA API games to justify it. But the MOGA Pro is perhaps the strongest of the lot – with its HID support and excellent ergonomics, it’s the gold standard of Android controllers.

Well now MOGA is back for round 2 with a new generation of controllers, both in pocket and full-size versions, but with a new feature: the ability to charge a phone attached to them. Unfortunately, the new designs with these new features just introduce new problems. The Pro only takes a minor ding, but the Hero proves to be greatly flawed because of it.

MOGA Hero Power

MOGA Hero Power

First off, the MOGA Pro Power only makes slight changes to the formula: its design has been seemingly modified to fit better with the look of the Hero, and perhaps to accomodate the battery inside. Both controller scome with a standard micro-USB cable for charging in the contorller’s female micro-USB port, and a short micro-USB cable for charging from the female full-size USB port on both controllers, used to charge a phone connected to the device.

The MOGA Hero Power is a total overhaul of the MOGA Pocket. Where the Pocket lacked analog triggers, clickable joysticks, and a d-pad, the Hero contains all of these, while still maintaining a small size, and now supporting both MOGA API and standard HID gamepad modes. The joysticks are no longer the flat discs of the Pocket, they’re convex standard analog joysticks, just very small.

MOGA Pro Power

MOGA Pro Power

The portability factor is mixed: the controller certainly would fit in a pocket, but I’d be nervous about those joysticks breaking off just by their nature. It’s the same reason I don’t really pocket my PS Vita. Perhaps they would stick on there, but it makes me nervous. If it came with a little bag like the Pocket did, I’d feel better. Otherwise, if you’re throwing it in a bag, then it’s probably best to just go up to the Pro Power, eh?

The other reason to just go with the Pro Power? The triggers on the Hero are terrible. They are incredibly stiff, and absurdly uncomfortable to use; I just couldn’t find a comfortable position to place my index fingers on the triggers. A first-person shooter like Neon Shadow is okay with the triggers; a racing game like Asphalt 8 is practically unbearable.

MOGA Hero Power: the triggers are stiff and very, very comfortable.

MOGA Hero Power: the triggers are stiff and very, very comfortable.

In comparison, the MOGA Pro Power, with more traditional full-size triggers.

In comparison, the MOGA Pro Power, with more traditional full-size triggers.

The power recharging on both controllers leaves something to be desired. They really only put out enough power to keep the phone from draining too much of its battery, and only while the screen is on and the controller is connected via Bluetooth, even if the little 6″ micro-USB cable is connected. While some battery power is likely needed to keep the controller itself working longer than it can recharge, it’s really not that useful of an addition, more of a novelty.

Honestly, the added weight is a great addition to the Hero; the Nexus 4 and the Hero with battery are a perfect weight to use, balanced between controller and phone without one tilting the other. The Pro Power’s added weight doesn’t really do much for the controller, it just feels a bit too heavy. CHECK THIS The new “SMRT Lock” clamps do a great job at holding a phone in the controller. The Pro Power comes with the fantastic tablet stand that came with the Pro; the Hero is lacking this, though. The rubberized sides are a sad omission from the Pro Power, and just overall it feels like it’s taken a step back from the fantastic construction of the original Pro.

MOGAHEROPOWER-2

Really, while the MOGA Pro Power is still a solid controller, it’s a step down from the original MOGA Pro, which still works quite well, and is actually cheaper now that it’s on clearance at many stores. Now is the perfect time to pick it up, especially as the power capabilities of the Pro Power aren’t too useful. Meanwhile, the MOGA Hero Power’s flaws and terrible triggers make it a hard controller to recommend; it’s just especially limiting. I can only really recommend it for people that really a portable gaming controller with a clamp for their Android phone that they can stick in their pocket and not in a bag with them. It seems like a small market.

All parenthetical scores below are (Hero/Power):