Sony Xperia Z3v Review

Sony Xperia Z3v Review

Mar 23, 2015

For Android smartphone aficionados, every OEM has something about it. We do associate things to different OEMs — some good, some bad. Personally, I love being able to see unbranded hardware and more or less guess who makes it based on some design cues. Since Android is blessed wit device makers that have backgrounds in varied consumer electronics ventures, it’s interesting to see how their Android smartphones extend the brand.

Sony definitely has a rep in consumer electronics, and its Xperia line is the embodiment of that reputation in te personal computing space. Specifically with the Sony Xperia Z3v, one of its latest devices, Sony shows us how even the sleek can get, well, even sleeker.

The review unit Sony sent to us helps one conceptualize the design. Physically, it is clearly a Z3 variant, and it unashamedly hearkens to the Z2. We style is deliberate, with regal cuts, glass front and back with plastic exo-core coming in at 5.85 x 2.89 x 0.35 inches; it packs a 5.2″ Full HD 1920 x1080 pixel screen that is actually fun to look at. At first glance, one might be forgiven if they wonder where the ports are; te device is seemingly devoid of them except for the 3.55 mm audio port — the rest covered by plastic tabs, such that one needs to pull said tabs up and out to do stuff like charge the device or use the sd card port.

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The wake/on button and volume rocker are placed on the side, which does help with single-handed use. We also get 20.7 MP camera in the back and a 2.2 MP snapper in the front.

Under the hood, Sony does pack a lot of goodness… 3 GB RAM 32 GB memory (tested version), Snapdragon chip, and just about every connectivity option one can think of, including MHL and Miracast support. When it’s all said and done the Z3v is a connectivity powerhouse.

The included software suit isn’t bad, with mainstays like PS Remote Play tucked in for Playstation folks. Sony’s cover skin is thin, but I did find the Amazon integration interesting: the included suite of Amazon apps can’t be completely uninstalled. If this is truly the last time we see the music app labeled as Walkman, it could be said it went out repping the brand quite well.

Of note is the SmartWear compatibility; we had an opportunity to try it out with the Smartwatch 3, and they worked quite well together. Of course, all Google apps are included, with the backing of the Google Play Store.

The whole package is smooth, even at a non-contract price of $599 (on Amazon). The software and hardware come together quite nicely, and it is definitely a testament to Sony being able to make (and improve upon) nice hardware.

Sony SmartWatch 3 Hardware Review

Sony SmartWatch 3 Hardware Review

Mar 16, 2015

Sony is back, yes. With the Smartwatch 3.

The screen itself is rectangular, with a rubber-ish black band that doesn’t separate. The main design allows for the rectangular core to be separated from the band, such that other style of bands can be used on the fly. It sports a 320×320, 16 bit color screen on a 1.6 inch (diagonal) screen. The whole watch is billed at about 2.53 ounces.

When it comes to the hardware itself, its probably easier to note which sensors are not packed into this unit. One gets GPS, gyroscope, ambient light and even a magnetometer. It rocks bluetooth, NFC and wi-fi, along with a mic, as well as being waterproof. Processor? Quad ARM A7, 1.2 GHz, with memory stats of 512 MB RAM and 4 GB eMMC. It looks safe, but does have some power under the hood.

Pairing the unit involves getting the SmartWatch 3 paired to an Android device via Android Wear, which was pretty painless. The watch does expected watch functions, as well as a host of health-related tasks, prominent of which is measuring movement. Also prominent is the Google Now functionality, which is where the built-in mic comes in handy.

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The big differentiator here is the combination of hardware and the aforementioned Android Wear. The implementation of the latter is especially interesting, as it really allows the SmartWatch 3 to be both a dual screen and a fairly independent device. There are some nice applications available for it as well, like a music player

I did like the overall utility of the device, even if I was not the biggest fan of the form factor; while the band switching functionality is pretty nice, I do think Sony could have taken a few more chances with the design. I also was not a fan of the positioning of the charging port. Additionally, Android Wear was truculent at times, and I didn’t get advertised two days of use from a charge.

As a connected health tool, I did like the product overall; if anything, it proves why we’d prefer Sony in he smartdevice sector.

Sony is back… and should stay.

Sony Music Unlimited Review

Sony Music Unlimited Review

Oct 8, 2014

“Daddy?”

“Yep?”

“What is that ‘CD’ thingie they are talking about on that show?”

We’ve come a long way. Not that long ago, having one’s music on the go meant investing in a CD case or one of those hideous auto visor holders. Now, our smartphones are our streaming hubs.

And mighty Sony is on it it — in the manifestation of the subscription-based Sony Music Unlimited streaming service.

After setting up the service (which involved redeeming the review code Sony provided), the next thing was to download the accompanying from the Play Store. using the app, one is easily able to navigate the service. it’s possible to browse the catalog by genre. For premium subscribers, there is the channel feature, which parses thesum1 music into common-ground groups; channels range from “Bollywood” to “Assassin’s Creed” and beyond. There is even a “Comedy Nightclub” channel, which rocks stuff from Cheech and Chong all the way to Chris Rock, I liked the ability to create one’s own channels. There is also a Library section in the main menu which allows users to collate favorite music.

The service allows for streaming (obviously), but also gives users the ability to pin music offline; this is great for when might be lacking internet connectivity.

One of the biggest question a music service has to answer is the one that pertains to content. On this front, Sony Music Unlimited packs a major punch; not shocking, considering we’re talking about, well, Sony here. It boasts more than 30 million songs, which is far from shabby. In reality, it picked up almost every artist I threw at it across genres. I was happy to find entire albums from even obscure artists; it didn’t have ALL, but I think I could be satisfied with the selection. The audio is quite clear (320 kbps High Quality Audio), and no ads to contend with.

The ability to access the premium service on the web, multiple mobile platforms, Playstation consoles/handhelds and compatible Sony electronics adds to its allure.

I think the search engine can be tweaked a good deal; in some of my searches, it seemed to be quite reliant on exactness, which can be a tough with regards to zany spellings of artist names and songs, and even then, finding songs can be infuriating. There are some instances that I think the UI could be a bit more logical off the search too; there were times a song/artist search came up blank when the song was indeed in the catalog.

Yes, the streaming music space is pretty packed for Android, but Sony knows a thing or two about this entertainment, and it brings that knowledge to bear in this product.

Good for us.

Here’s How To Unbox a Gadget: Underwater

Here’s How To Unbox a Gadget: Underwater

Sep 29, 2014

Pssst…

I have a secret…

I watch unboxing videos.

Look, I know it sounds weird, but there is something just so incredibly awesome about a device that enter the world for the first time (in my mind) in its new owners hand. I almost always have to hold back tears during sweet, emotional moments like this.

Don’t judge me.

Now, before I publicly admit that I redo the unboxing of my own devices over and over again, take a look at this interesting take on the unboxing of a Sony Xperia Z3 from retailer Carphone Warehouse:

Awesome.

[Source: Carphone Warehouse Youtube page courtesy of Gizmodo]

Suits and Swords Review

Suits and Swords Review

Aug 8, 2014

Suits and Swords is much like Blackjack version of the venerable and well received Sword and Poker. While a good ideas does a simpler game like Blackjack have the legs to support an RPG?

Suits and Swords has a rather amusing story. The majority of things and characters in the story are named after card related things. The main character is called Black Jack, he’s a solider or Battle Jack and the villain is an evil disembodied head named Joker. He’s pretty serious.

Screenshot_2014-08-07-23-47-32The coolest thing about Suits and Swords is the off the wall game concept. Just like Sword and Poker, this is one of those games that likely wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t for the open door policy of the Playstore.

Suits and Swords features an overall map where the player moves between stages and buys new items and spells from the store. Each stage spot on the map is a battle.

Screenshot_2014-08-08-00-09-27Combat, as you might expect is mostly random. Both the player and their opponent draw a hand and the player selects to hit or stay. Magic can also be used to increase or decrease their hand, which feels a lot like cheating. The opponent then reveals their hand and hits or stays. The winner gets to attack and cause damage.

The combat isn’t bad, but it just isn’t as compelling as poker and the AI seems to get good hands almost all the time. Standing on 19 might be a pretty good idea in real Blackjack, but it’s a bad idea in this game. The AI will almost always get 20 or 21, which feels very unfair. The magic element to the game also feels a bit cheap. Magic can be purchased in the store and of course in-app purchases are just waiting to load the player up with magic.

Equipment also plays a role in the game, but it just increases defence or attack and there are no interesting effects like increasing the chance a certain suit will appear or the like. New equipment is unlocked often but it is extremely expensive to buy, pushing the player towards in app purchases.

Suits and Swords doesn’t look that great. Poor quality Flash-like graphics don’t do the game any favours and animations are extremely basic. The sound isn’t particularly great either. The music has no feeling and the sound is very generic. The game also has an obnoxious animated ad on screen between levels.

Suits and Swords is a passable game, but its lacklustre presentation, cheap feeling gameplay and ads aren’t very compelling. It relies too heavily on in app purchases and just doesn’t really have enough depth to hold the player’s interest.


Xperia Z2 Tablet from Sony has Price and Release Date Announced

Xperia Z2 Tablet from Sony has Price and Release Date Announced

Apr 22, 2014

Sony has announced that Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Wi-Fi is now available for pre-order, coming on May 4th at Sony Stores. The 10.1″ Android tablet, which Sony boasts uses BRAVIA TV technology on a Full HD screen, will cost $499 for the 16 GB version and $599 for the 32 GB version. Check out a complete list of specs and an image gallery below:

· Waterproof, rated IP55/58

· 10.1-inch Full HD TRILUMINOS™ Display with Live Color LED with X-Reality™ for mobile

· S-Force Front Surround™ audio, Clear Audio+ and digital noise cancelling support

· 8 MP camera with Exmor RS™ image sensor and Superior Auto mode

· Preloaded Xperia camera apps including: Info-eye™, Timeshift burst, AR effect, Social live and Background defocus

· Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.3 Ghz Quad-core processor, 3 GB RAM6, 6000 mAh battery

· Available in black (16GB or 32GB) or white (32GB)

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Sony Announces Second Screen Mobile App for PlayStation 4

Sony Announces Second Screen Mobile App for PlayStation 4

Feb 21, 2013

Sony announced the PS4 at a special event on February 20th – well, they announced that it existed and that here’s some big, shiny games with some big, shiny explosions, but they didn’t actually show off the actual console to anyone. However, one thing they have shown off is a second screen app that will be coming to Android devices. Tentatively known as the PlayStation App, it will work in similar ways to the already-existing Xbox SmartGlass app.

Games can integrate in features like maps and other details that can be viewed on a tablet screen. There will be the ability to browse the PSN Store and buy new content to have it ready at home. As well, with the system’s ability to stream gameplay video, the app will be able to view friends’ streamed videos from anywhere. While the system will boast robust Remote Play features, they’re currently locked in to the PlayStation Vita. While Sony appears to not be opening up all their features to non-Sony hardware, the fact that they’re announcing this sort of feature as baked-in to the system from day one says a lot about the influence that these devices are having. The PlayStation 4 will launch this holiday season, and the app should presumably be available around the same time.

Does The Xperia Play’s Lack of Ice Cream Sandwich Signal the End for the Gaming Phone?

Does The Xperia Play’s Lack of Ice Cream Sandwich Signal the End for the Gaming Phone?

May 29, 2012

It appears as if the end of the line may be coming for the Xperia Play. After last year’s announcement that there were no immediate plans for a followup to the phone, now it seems that a full release of Ice Cream Sandwich won’t be coming to the phone.

While a beta version was released, and custom ROMs are available, the fact that Sony appears to be ceasing development on the phone does signal that the end is near. Gingerbread is still a ‘modern’ OS of sorts, considering that the majority of Android phones still run that 2.3 OS.

If this is the end, it’s a shame. The phone did a better job at attracting exclusives and developer support for an external control standard than any other phone or device. This may be in large part due to Sony promoting the phone. The Xperia line is continuing, and the lack of a gaming-focused phone, at least one that continues Play controls support, seems like a curious omission. For fans of mobile gaming who can’t get over touch screen controls, the eventual demise of the Play without a successor will leave a definite gap in the market.

Sony Releases Photo Movie Creator HD for Android Tablets

It’s been a busy year for Sony Digital Network Applications, releasing a variety of photo and video editing apps that try to bring media editing and creation to casual users. Their final app of 2011 is Photo Movie Creator HD, and is their first app designed for Android tablets.

This app works similarly to the previously-released Photo Movie Creator for phones, just with an interface for Android tablets. Users take a group of photos, apply borders and text, and output a video containing their photos. This app works wonderfully on Android tablets, with an interface tailored to the wide screen and high resolution of the devices.

As well, the HD version of the app has social networking features. In particular, users can share videos with other users of the app, so that they can share their special moments and photographs with the world at large. Users can comment on the videos as well, and the most popular videos will be displayed on the top of the page.

Photo Movie Creator HD is now available from the Android Market.

Sony Digital Network Applications Launches New Photo Gallery App

Sony Digital Network Applications Launches New Photo Gallery App

Oct 26, 2011

Sony Digital Network Applications has unveiled their latest app to interact with media on Android. While their previous works were designed around editing photos and videos, their newest app is designed around finding ways to organize the media users have created.

Picture Manager is designed as a complement and replacement to the Gallery app on users’ phones. A 2-pane view is used: on the left, users can choose the types of media they want to view, and on the right, thumbnails of the media appear. The app makes it easy to select multiple items at a time and apply labels and ratings to media for easier filtering. When trying to clean out photos and videos that are to be deleted, the multiple selection options make this a breeze, and there are also inverse checkmarking options, like if a certain number of items in a folder need to be labeled one way, and the rest a different way.

Media can be filtered and viewed by several criteria. The standard folder-by-folder view from the standard Gallery app is here, though this makes it easier to view subfolders that may contain images and videos. media can be viewed by labels that can be applied to it, so filtering vacation photos is possible, for example. They can also be filtered by rating, when one only wants to view the best shots they’ve taken! However, possibly the most useful filter is by date, so seeing photos taken at a particular time is easier than ever. It also serves as a great trip down memory lane at those photos I forgot I had taken!

Sony Digital Network Applications is launching more media management apps in the near future, including Video Connector, Photo Editor, and Photo Movie Creator HD. These will be coming in the next couple of months, so users looking to interact with their media in different ways have more options to look forward to soon.