Best of TechRadar: this week's star features and hottest reviews
1st Mar 2014 | 08:00
All the hottest hits and techiest toys from the past 7 days
Best of TechRadar
MWC week is always interesting but this past week has been particularly exciting.
Lots of interesting new mobile devices, including phones, tablets and smartwatches as well as products that defy categorization!
As usual, this Saturday morning we've rounded up all our favourite features of the last week, but we've also added a special MWC section at the bottom with all our favourite hands-on reviews from Barcelona. Check it!
Beyond Spotify: the experts' vision for the future of music listening
The music biz explains it all
The Top 40 will soon be going through the biggest change in its history when streaming is counted towards a song's chart position. Every chart change before now has been predominantly about sales: from vinyl to tape to CD and then download, each of these constituted a purchase. Streaming is, for obvious reasons, a whole different story. The purchase is the subscription and it is then up to the service to divvy those fees up among labels. This means that there will have to be some serious working out as to how many streams are the equivalent of a sale. The mere fact that it is being considered, though, is a big step towards confirming what many music listeners already know: streaming is the future of music. Or at least it will be if someone actually creates a model that works.
Can the PlayStation 4 still win against a discounted Xbox One?
Titanfall bundle promises to boost MS console
The PlayStation 4 is surging towards that ten million milestone. Since November it has sold more than five million units (not taking into account business from Japan, where the system launched last Friday), and in the UK it has doubled Xbox One's sales since January. Can knocking £30 off the price and bundling in TItanfall be the boost the Xbox needs?
The Xbox One is losing the war but Titanfall is a weapon of mass seduction
Stand by for a game changing move
Though Microsoft has insisted it's happy with the number of consoles shifted so far, it's a fact that Sony is slowly pulling ahead with its rival product, thanks primarily to a lower price point and a near-flawless marketing strategy since E3 last year. But that said, rumours of vast quantities of Xbox One stock gathering dust on retail shelves have been greatly exaggerated, as the internet is wont to do. Rob was right; console launches don't tend to sit anywhere between huge successes and resounding failures – but I think both consoles are already safely out of the latter camp. Continue reading...
Could your smartphone survive in SPACE?
Well, Samsung DID call it the Galaxy...
It's an age old question, one which has troubled scholars almost as much as the issue of whether cats can count. But it's a question which we finally aim to answer: Can a smartphone survive a trip into orbit? Find out by reading the feature.
Your smartphone wants to kill off your camera and your Blu-ray player
Ultra HD smartphones will rewrite the 4K rulebook
The 4K revolution is about to get personal. Key phones announced at Mobile World Congress quietly list Ultra HD video recording as part of their ever expanding armoury of features. This provision will not only change the way 4K can be viewed in the home (if users want to see just how sharp their footage is they'll need to run it into an external display), but reveal mobile devices to be a key piece in the 4K content puzzle. The simple fact is that Samsung's Galaxy S5 is poised to become the most popular 4K acquisition device on the planet. Continue reading...
Reborn Identity: why Amazon Prime and Netflix are breathing life into dead shows
Ripper Street gets the kiss of life
It might not be making it but without Netflix there would be no reboot of 24. And I'm convinced that without Amazon Prime there is no way that Heroes would have been brought back from the dead. Neither of these shows will be available through on demand, but it is the push by streaming services to bring back cult-worthy programming that has almost certainly spurred traditional broadcasters to do the same thing. Continue reading...
Samsung Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo vs Galaxy Gear
Key features and differences between the three smart watches
Samsung's had another stab at owning the wrist – but what's the difference between the two? We all expected Samsung to launch a new Galaxy Gear at MWC 2014, but to have two come along at the same time is a little odd. If there was a vast difference between the spec sheets, we'd understand the logic, but there are many similarities between the two watches, which will make it hard for the prospective buyer.
Read:Samsung Gear 2 vs Gear 2 Neo vs Galaxy Gear
Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S
It's time for the Galaxy S5 hype to die down and for us to take a hard look at how the new Samsung flagship stacks up to the previous generation and the competition. J Rogerson has done just that in pitting the Galaxy S5 vs the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S5 vs the iPhone 5S. How does the new handset stack up on specs such as camera, screen, CPU and OS? You'll just have to read to find out.
Read:Galaxy S5 vs Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S
Android on Nokia: what you need to know
Why it's happened and what it means for you
This week's launch of Nokia's new X handsets has generated more headlines than you'd expect for a family of fairly low-end devices. That's because the Windows Phone-supporting, soon-to-be-part-of-Microsoft phone firm has embraced Android. Here's what you need to know: tech first, and then what it means for Nokia, Windows Phone and Microsoft.
Read:Android on Nokia: what you need to know
Reviews from MWC 2014:
Samsung Galaxy S5
The one you've all been waiting for...
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the latest challenger from the South Korean brand to launch into an ever more crowded market, but at least this time the phone has focused on what users might actually want rather than useless gimmicks. The Galaxy S4 was a strong phone in spite of the insistence that being able to wave your hands over a phone or scroll with your eyes was a good thing. The Galaxy S5 takes the DNA of that handset and improves on it in most areas. It's a quiet improvement though, which may disappoint a lot of people looking to see the world's highest-res display and an all new metal chassis, but it's one that at least delivers where consumers need it.
Read:Samsung Galaxy S5 review
Samsung Gear 2
The smartwatch to beat in 2014?
The new Samsung Gear 2 is the watch that we were all expecting to happen at MWC, but it came with a few surprises along the way. The biggest one is the fact it's running Tizen; or, as Samsung tells us, a Tizen-based OS for smartwatches. The distinction is largely irrelevant, as the upshot is a faster, more efficient and longer-lasting watch. The new Gear 2, shorn as it is of the Galaxy name thanks to not coming with Android, is a much better device compared to the original thanks to some key upgrades. Read:Hands on: Samsung Gear 2 review
Samsung Gear Fit
The new wristband/watch from Samsung
Samsung is betting big on fitness in wearables being a big deal in the next few years, and as such is releasing a number of products to appeal to a number of market segments. Those not enamoured with the Gear 2 or Gear 2 Neo can opt for something altogether more understated: the Gear Fit. This band is much simpler than Samsung's range of smartwatches, with its primary function being to let you track when you walk, run, cycle or hike – the latter of which Samsung seems a little obsessed with. It's surely just walking. Read:Hands on: Samsung Gear Fit review
HTC Desire 816
HTC gets awfully glossy
After getting our eyes up close to the HTC Desire 816, we couldn't wait to go one step further and actually touch the damn thing. So that's exactly what we did, and there was nothing you could have done to stop us. In case you missed it, HTC announced its mid-range phablet at MWC, and aside from the naff name, the phone brought made pretty agreeable promises along with its 5.5-inch screen.
Read:HTC Desire 816 review
Nokia's first Android phone under the microscope
The Nokia X is a hard phone to work out – on the one hand, it's a super cheap handset and as such has the budget specs you'd expect. On the other, it seems to be not much better than the Lumia 520, which is a Windows Phone handset and supposed to sit above it in the product line – on current prices, it's also cheaper. There are some worries here even for the developing nations: that 4GB of storage could get eaten up quickly, and while Nokia is touting the ability to add third party apps through other stores, new phones can live and die by app availability and that could kill the Nokia Android project. The Nokia X is constructed well enough, has a interesting new UI and is breaking new ground – but as a new phone, it seems a bit expensive for what's on offer. Read: Hands on: Nokia X review
The middle child...
In isolation, the X+ is a perfectly palatable hunk of plastic boasting a surprisingly nice screen a perfectly acceptable performance level for the price point - and an interesting Android experience. It's not perfect, performance is not the speediest and the non-Google app experience is not an ideal solution, but despite its bulk it's not an unpleasant device to hold or use, especially at its low price. And that means that the X-range has the potential to be a very big deal for Nokia in the markets it is targeting. Read:Nokia X+ review
The super-sized Nokia Android handset
The Nokia XL is aimed at a narrow area of the market and it's a smartphone which will likely have big appeal in emerging markets, but less of a presence in more developed areas. A look at the price point and the spec sheet confirms this, but the fact Nokia has done a big screen device which has its roots in Android could be a sign of things to come from the Finnish firm.
Read:Hands on: Nokia XL review
Sony Xperia Z2
Sony's super-powered phone is in our hands
The Sony Xperia Z2 is a phone that can be viewed in two ways. On the one hand, it's an excellent upgrade over the Xperia Z, and features all the top end technology you could want in a very premium-feeling chassis. On the other, it's too much like the Xperia Z1, which is only a few months old – albeit a much better version. I'm still not a fan of all that bezel above and below the screen, nor am I confident the camera will be excellent in low light. But for a flagship phone, Sony has made a very well thought out device that ticks nearly every box you can think of, and then some.
Read:Hands on: Sony Xperia Z2 review
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
Great power and a lovely screen promise a high asking price
Apple didn't need to add much to the iPad Air, and proved the case with a slightly improved processor and an overhaul on the design front. Sony had already overachieved on that front in 2013, so the sequel was never going to scale the same heights. However, it's still a really great tablet, shaving weight off to make it feel nicer in the hand and giving the upgraded CPU that will keep the spec-heads happy. Is it worth the higher price that it will command when the prequel is going to be much cheaper? It's hard to say yes from a purely fiscal standpoint - but there's enough in terms of design, technology and power here to say it will probably be the most impressive tablet on show at MWC 2014. Read:Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review
Sony Xperia M2
A first look at Sony's mid-range handset
It's very difficult to rate mid-range handsets, because on one hand they seem very poorly-built compared to their high-end brethren, and it's really tricky to work out if the money you'll save is worth the drop in build quality. On the other hand, the likes of the M2 still have a quad-core processor, some nifty technology on board and have more than a modicum of thought gone into the design, so it's hard to lambast them too hard either. In summary: the Sony Xperia M2 is a solid, if unspectacular, phone that ticks the boxes and brings enough of the Japanese brand's tech to make it feel wanted. However, it's unlikely to be number one on any prospective buyer's wishlist. Read:Hands on: Sony Xperia M2 review
LG G2 Mini
The LG G2 Mini is a decent smartphone, but it may have arrived a bit too late to really make the same sort of impact as the S4 Mini or One Mini. If the G2 Mini does rock a similar price tag to its rivals then perhaps its larger screen and big battery will help it get some grounding in the market - but we're just going to have to wait and see. Read:Hands on: LG G2 Mini review
LG G Pro 2
LG's new phablet to take on the Galaxy Note
The LG G Pro 2 is a decent supersized smartphone and if it does manage to make it out of Asia then it will give the current crop of phablets a real run for their money. The various camera enhancements will attract a certain crowd, while we could see the innovative Mini View crop up on rival devices as manufacturers look to squeeze every last bit of usability from their smartphones. The LG G Pro 2 is definitely one to watch, and one to hope for. Read:Hands on: LG G Pro 2 review
Low-cost handset unbreaks the bank
The LG L40 rocks up as at the bottom of the Korean firm's mobile totem pole, taking over from 2013's rather disappointing LG Optimus L3 2. Previous L series handsets have been rather underwhelming, especially the entry level devices, but the third generation on show at MWC 2014 have more about them than their predecessors. The L40 still isn't going to blow you away in terms of specs, but it is at least a setup and the 3.5-inch screen now boasts a 320 x 480 resolution. Nothing special sure, but at least it's not a pixelated mess.
Read: Hands on: LG L40 review
The mobile in no-mans land...
With the low-end L40 and the slightly larger L90 the LG L70 finds itself in no mans land, filling a gap which probably could have been left unfilled. It's likely to be priced at a similar level to the Moto G, which is a far superior handset, and I fear the L70 may get lost in the bustle of the budget market. Read:LG L70 review
A bigscreen budget handset
The LG L90 is the flagship handset for the Korean firm's third generation L-series range of budget focussed devices, bringing with it the latest version of Android and a decently sized screen. Rocking up with a 4.7-inch display the L90 gives you enough real estate to play with, although at a resolution of just 960 x 540 it's certainly isn't the sharpest screen you'll lay eyes on. Read:LG L90 review
Huawei TalkBand B1
Wristbands for everyone!
The Huawei Talkband B1 is an interesting proposition and shows once again manufacturers are still unsure what features should go into a smartwatch. I feel Huawei may have got the balance almost right with the Talkband B1, although it may want to have a word with its designers as it isn't the most attractive piece of kit on the market. Read:Hands on: Huawei TalkBand B1 review
Huawei Ascend G6
The affordable alternative to the P6
Last year Huawei launched its flagship Ascend P6 smartphone, and now at MWC 2014 the Chinese firm has added to the range with the Huawei Ascend G6. As you may have guessed the G6 isn't a replacement to the P6, rather it's a more affordable option which shares the same design ethos as its bigger brother. The key facts about the Ascend G6 are its price and connectivity. While Huawei was unable to give me a firm price, I was told that it will come in at under £200. Not bad for a handset which is sporting the latest version of 4G technology - CAT 4 - giving you a super speedy internet connection.
Read:Hands on: Huawei Ascend G6 review
Huawei Media Pad X1
This is the Huawei tablet to watch
If Huawei can sort out the lag in the interface and improve the image quality from the camera the MediaPad X1 is set up to be a serious contender in the 7-inch tablet market. Its Achilles heel however could be its time to market, as by the time it's managed to get into stores the competition may have introduced their next-generation tablets - putting the Media Pad X1 out of contention before it's even started.
Read:Hands on: Huawei MediaPad X1 review
Huawei MediaPad M1
The slightly less exciting Chinese tablet
The Huawei MediaPad M1 is a solid 8-inch tablet, but it doesn't exactly excel at anything - if you want a cheap tablet the feature packed Nexus 7 would be a better option, although it does sport a smaller screen. Of course if you fancy a bit more screen real estate check out the G Pad 8.3, iPad Mini 2 and Galaxy Note 8.0. If those are out of your price range the Huawei MediaPad M1 is shaping up to be a decent affordable alternative - plus the option of 4G is a nice one to have. Read:Huawei MediaPad M1 review
ZTE's bigscreen wonder Memo 2 LTE
A big phone needs big power and ZTE has equipped the Grand Memo 2 relatively well, but the 1.2GHz quad-core processor is a little disappointing. If you're in the market for a top of the range phablet the ZTE Grand Memo 2 LTE is not for you. Its cheap build, average screen and childish UI pigeon hole it as an affordable phablet, but even then you might want to consider a standard size smartphone over this ZTE offering. Read:ZTE Grand Memo II LTE review
ZTE Open C
A cheap, but not especially cheerful phone
You have to make allowances for phones that are aiming at a particular price point, and to compare this device with the Samsung Galaxy S4 or even its higher-ranged ZTE Android brethren would be folly. But there's no excusing some of the issues that proliferate on the Open C - a poor screen, woolly multi-touch and build issues that don't sit well alongside the other lowly specs. So, in summary, it's cheap and it runs an OS that none of your friends are likely to have; but given its myriad issues even the bargain bin is looking aspirational at this point. Read:Hands on: ZTE Open C review