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IN DEPTH: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge vs LG G Flex 2

Battery, camera comparison

Smartphones have reached the point where designs are more iterative than innovative. While the look and feel changes only slightly on new models each year, manufacturers haven't done much to wow consumers beyond the traditional rectangular slab of glass, metal and plastic.

LG attempted to shake things up last year with first G Flex, a 6-inch smartphone with a curved display and slightly flexible frame, and Samsung soon followed with their own take on this concept, courtesy of the Galaxy Note Edge, a phablet-sized model featuring a display that wraps around the right side.

These Korean tech titans wasted no time announcing all-new versions of these devices for 2015, and we sat down with both in an effort to determine whether curved and flexible displays actually enhance the experience or are little more than a marketing gimmick.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge display

Screen

Although it won't hit stores until April 10 (with preorders now available in 20 countries), the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is little more than a variant of this year's Samsung Galaxy S6, featuring nearly identical specs with one notable exception: The Edge's display gently wraps around both sides of the front.

Otherwise, the Galaxy S6 Edge offers the same 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display as its less curvaceous sibling, with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 that packs in a whopping 577ppi.

The new LG G Flex 2 one-ups Samsung's latest with a 5.5-inch Full HD P-OLED display which curves slightly from top to bottom, and like its predecessor, can handle a bit of bending without breaking.

Despite the larger screen, the G Flex 2 tops out at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with a pixel density of only 403ppi, but LG attempts to make up for this shortcoming by comparing the curved display to its high-end televisions, offering a more cinematic viewing experience in landscape mode with three modes (Standard, Vivid or Natural) to make any content look great.

LG G Flex 2 profile

Design

Weighing only 4.66 ounces (132 grams), Samsung's curved Galaxy S6 Edge offers a premium feel that's slightly less ergonomic along the edges, but the aluminum frame and 7mm thickness make the device feel lighter than the Galaxy S6.

Roughly the size of an iPhone 6, Samsung borrowed a somewhat annoying trait from Apple's latest flagship handset: The rear camera protrudes from the back ever so slightly, presumably a design compromise to keep the device slim and trim.

Instead of curving around the edges, LG's G Flex 2 bends the entire case inward vertically, and because of the larger display size, its contoured body weighs slightly more at 5.36 ounces (152 grams) with a 5.87 x 2.96 x 0.37-inch (149.1 x 75.3 x 9.4mm) frame.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge both sides

Processor and Storage

Just because it looks so nice on the outside, that's no reason to be a slouch when it comes to what's on the inside.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge obliges with an octa-core, 64-bit Exynos 7 Octa 7420 processor clocked at 2.1GHz capped off by a Mali-T760 MP8 GPU and a whopping 3GB RAM and up to 128GB of storage for good measure.

LG mostly made up for the lack of oomph on the first G Flex by slapping an octa-core, 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor into the sequel, clocked at 2.0GHz with Adreno 430 GPU and the same 3GB RAM.

Unfortunately, the built-in storage on the G Flex 2 maxes out at 32GB, but up to a totally insane 2TB of additional storage is available from an optional microSD card – a feature sadly lacking on the otherwise hardware-rich Galaxy S6 Edge.

Battery, cameras and features comparison

LG G Flex 2 back cover removed

Battery

If you love the flexibility of swapping in a new battery when the current one runs out, neither of these curvy smartphones are likely to make you smile.

It's too early to know what the battery life will be like on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, but the 2600mAh power pack doesn't offer a whole lot of encouragement on this front.

By comparison, the G Flex 2 packs a 3000mAh battery (reduced from 3500mAh in the previous model), but before LG can boast about having more power, there's the matter of that larger 5.5-inch display to consider.

Thankfully, the fast charging capabilities of both models should have you back in action quickly – our own review of the LG G Flex 2 topped up from a complete discharge in just over an hour and a half.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge camera

Cameras

Samsung hasn't held back when it comes to the Galaxy S6 Edge camera: Rocking a 16MP, f1.9 aperture sensor with dual LED flash and optical image stabilization capable of shooting 4K video up to 3840 x 2160, the rear camera is no slouch.

By comparison, the LG G Flex 2 borrows liberally from the LG G3 to provide a 13MP sensor that otherwise checks off the same feature list above on the Galaxy S6 Edge, although the laser auto focus is one noteworthy addition.

Neither model breaks much new ground with the front camera, however: Samsung touts a "best-in-class" 5MP sensor with 120º wide angle lens, while LG's tops out a 2.1MP, which the manufacturer claims is enough to use it as a "full HD camcorder."

LG G Flex 2 in hand

Features

The remaining feature checklist is relatively the same for both handsets: Each ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the gate, with the usual Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless on board.

Aside from curved edges, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge also offers built-in Qi and Powermat-compatible wireless charging.

LG instead opted to include a selfie-friendly "Gesture Shot" mode on the G Flex 2, which provides a three-second timer on the front-facing camera that can be activated with a gesture; tilting the camera down allows the user to review images instead.

Like the original G Flex, the sequel also features that bizarre self-healing back, which didn't do all that much to impress in our own review of the G Flex 2. More impressive is the Glance view, which offers a peek at what's happening without the need to actually turn on the device.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge connected

Galaxy Edge 6 vs G Flex 2 Verdict

This two-horse race ultimately comes down to just how curvy you want: Along the edges of the handset with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, or on the entire smartphone with the LG G Flex 2.

LG has a slight advantage since the handset is already available from two carriers for early adopters to take home, but to be honest, the whole concept of curved displays on a smartphone still causes us to scratch our collective heads more than be impressed.

Samsung isn't likely to woo many potential Galaxy S6 buyers away from the flagship device in favor of the Galaxy S6 Edge either, but those in search of a more premium edition worthy of making friends envious will want to wait it out a bit longer – assuming you can afford it, that is.








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IN DEPTH: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge vs LG G Flex 2

Battery, camera comparison

Smartphones have reached the point where designs are more iterative than innovative. While the look and feel changes only slightly on new models each year, manufacturers haven't done much to wow consumers beyond the traditional rectangular slab of glass, metal and plastic.

LG attempted to shake things up last year with first G Flex, a 6-inch smartphone with a curved display and slightly flexible frame, and Samsung soon followed with their own take on this concept, courtesy of the Galaxy Note Edge, a phablet-sized model featuring a display that wraps around the right side.

These Korean tech titans wasted no time announcing all-new versions of these devices for 2015, and we sat down with both in an effort to determine whether curved and flexible displays actually enhance the experience or are little more than a marketing gimmick.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge display

Screen

Although it won't hit stores until April 10 (with preorders now available in 20 countries), the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is little more than a variant of this year's Samsung Galaxy S6, featuring nearly identical specs with one notable exception: The Edge's display gently wraps around both sides of the front.

Otherwise, the Galaxy S6 Edge offers the same 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display as its less curvaceous sibling, with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 that packs in a whopping 577ppi.

The new LG G Flex 2 one-ups Samsung's latest with a 5.5-inch Full HD P-OLED display which curves slightly from top to bottom, and like its predecessor, can handle a bit of bending without breaking.

Despite the larger screen, the G Flex 2 tops out at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with a pixel density of only 403ppi, but LG attempts to make up for this shortcoming by comparing the curved display to its high-end televisions, offering a more cinematic viewing experience in landscape mode with three modes (Standard, Vivid or Natural) to make any content look great.

LG G Flex 2 profile

Design

Weighing only 4.66 ounces (132 grams), Samsung's curved Galaxy S6 Edge offers a premium feel that's slightly less ergonomic along the edges, but the aluminum frame and 7mm thickness make the device feel lighter than the Galaxy S6.

Roughly the size of an iPhone 6, Samsung borrowed a somewhat annoying trait from Apple's latest flagship handset: The rear camera protrudes from the back ever so slightly, presumably a design compromise to keep the device slim and trim.

Instead of curving around the edges, LG's G Flex 2 bends the entire case inward vertically, and because of the larger display size, its contoured body weighs slightly more at 5.36 ounces (152 grams) with a 5.87 x 2.96 x 0.37-inch (149.1 x 75.3 x 9.4mm) frame.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge both sides

Processor and Storage

Just because it looks so nice on the outside, that's no reason to be a slouch when it comes to what's on the inside.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge obliges with an octa-core, 64-bit Exynos 7 Octa 7420 processor clocked at 2.1GHz capped off by a Mali-T760 MP8 GPU and a whopping 3GB RAM and up to 128GB of storage for good measure.

LG mostly made up for the lack of oomph on the first G Flex by slapping an octa-core, 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor into the sequel, clocked at 2.0GHz with Adreno 430 GPU and the same 3GB RAM.

Unfortunately, the built-in storage on the G Flex 2 maxes out at 32GB, but up to a totally insane 2TB of additional storage is available from an optional microSD card – a feature sadly lacking on the otherwise hardware-rich Galaxy S6 Edge.

Battery, cameras and features comparison

LG G Flex 2 back cover removed

Battery

If you love the flexibility of swapping in a new battery when the current one runs out, neither of these curvy smartphones are likely to make you smile.

It's too early to know what the battery life will be like on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, but the 2600mAh power pack doesn't offer a whole lot of encouragement on this front.

By comparison, the G Flex 2 packs a 3000mAh battery (reduced from 3500mAh in the previous model), but before LG can boast about having more power, there's the matter of that larger 5.5-inch display to consider.

Thankfully, the fast charging capabilities of both models should have you back in action quickly – our own review of the LG G Flex 2 topped up from a complete discharge in just over an hour and a half.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge camera

Cameras

Samsung hasn't held back when it comes to the Galaxy S6 Edge camera: Rocking a 16MP, f1.9 aperture sensor with dual LED flash and optical image stabilization capable of shooting 4K video up to 3840 x 2160, the rear camera is no slouch.

By comparison, the LG G Flex 2 borrows liberally from the LG G3 to provide a 13MP sensor that otherwise checks off the same feature list above on the Galaxy S6 Edge, although the laser auto focus is one noteworthy addition.

Neither model breaks much new ground with the front camera, however: Samsung touts a "best-in-class" 5MP sensor with 120º wide angle lens, while LG's tops out a 2.1MP, which the manufacturer claims is enough to use it as a "full HD camcorder."

LG G Flex 2 in hand

Features

The remaining feature checklist is relatively the same for both handsets: Each ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the gate, with the usual Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless on board.

Aside from curved edges, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge also offers built-in Qi and Powermat-compatible wireless charging.

LG instead opted to include a selfie-friendly "Gesture Shot" mode on the G Flex 2, which provides a three-second timer on the front-facing camera that can be activated with a gesture; tilting the camera down allows the user to review images instead.

Like the original G Flex, the sequel also features that bizarre self-healing back, which didn't do all that much to impress in our own review of the G Flex 2. More impressive is the Glance view, which offers a peek at what's happening without the need to actually turn on the device.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge connected

Galaxy Edge 6 vs G Flex 2 Verdict

This two-horse race ultimately comes down to just how curvy you want: Along the edges of the handset with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, or on the entire smartphone with the LG G Flex 2.

LG has a slight advantage since the handset is already available from two carriers for early adopters to take home, but to be honest, the whole concept of curved displays on a smartphone still causes us to scratch our collective heads more than be impressed.

Samsung isn't likely to woo many potential Galaxy S6 buyers away from the flagship device in favor of the Galaxy S6 Edge either, but those in search of a more premium edition worthy of making friends envious will want to wait it out a bit longer – assuming you can afford it, that is.








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DealsRadar: DealsRadar: great deals on tech and games updated daily

DealsRadar

DealsRadar is the go-to destination for all the best prices on tech and games on the internet. We update daily with links to the best deals on miscellaneous tech and games, with dedicated sections for all your favourite products!

Today we've got some great deals on a Macbook Air, Samsung Galaxy Tab 4, Parrot Bebop Drone and lots more great tech bargains.

DealsRadar's Daily Deals:

Macbook Air

John Lewis have reduced their Macbook Air's by £70, this is a great price for a fantastic laptop and it comes with John Lewis's 2 year guarantee. You can buy it for just £679.

Samsung Galaxy 10.1

This Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1-inch Tablet is on offer at Amazon for just £179.49. This tablet features a 1.2ghz processor with a 16gb hardrive and around 10 hours of battery life.

Amethyst

This great blue-tooth speaker has been reduced down to just £23.59 at Amazon.

BT Mini Wi-Fi 500

If you have poor Wi-Fi signal then you should have a look at this BT Mini Wi-Fi 500, it was particularly popular when we last had it up on daily deals. You can grab this for just £79 from Amazon

Parrot Bebop Drone

Interested in doing some spy work? or maybe you would just like to take some aerial photos. Well look no further, you can fly this Parrot Bebop Drone with its easy to pilot dedicated app and use its 14 megapixel 180 fisheye camera. All this for just £354.66.

DealsRadar Recommended Deals:

Handset: Native Union Curve BT Handset with Base - Black - Now only £7.99 at Amazon

Coffee Machine: NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Coffee Machine - Now only £68.95 at Amazon

Torch: LED Lenser T7 Tactical Torch - Reduced down to £29 at Amazon

Speaker: TDK T79074 A26 Trek Weatherproof Wireless Speaker - Down to £40 at Amazon

Storage: ZyXEL NSA325 v2 2 Bay Desktop Network Storage Power Plus NAS Enclosure - Now only £78.39

Powerbank: Anker® 2nd Gen Astro E4 13000mAh 2-Port Power Bank - Reduced down to £18.99 at Amazon (Use code 8F46L9IZ)

Signal Booster: Belkin N600 Universal Dual Band Wi-Fi Range Extender/Wireless Signal Booster - Now only £34.99 at Amazon

Binoculars: NIKON Travelite VI 8 x 25mm Porro Prism Binoculars - Reduced down to £49.97 at Currys

Tablet: Apple iPad Mini 16GB Wi-Fi (White) - Only £172.99 at Amazon

Charger: TeckNet® 50W 6-Port Family-Sized Desktop USB Wall Charger - Down to £15.97 at Amazon

Memory Module: HyperX Savage 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) 2400 MHz DDR3 CL11 DIMM XMP Memory Module - Now only £95.99 at Amazon

Keyboard: Logitech Ultrathin Magnetic Clip On Keyboard for iPad Air 2 - Reduced down to £49.99 at Amazon

Tablet: Samsung Galaxy TabPRO Tablet, Qualcomm Snapdragon, Android, 8.4" 16GB, Wi-Fi - Down to £199 at John Lewis

Modem: NETGEAR D6100-100UKS AC1200 Dual Band Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Router for Phone Line Connections - Reduced down to £59.99 at Amazon

Powerbank: EasyAcc 9000mAh Power Bank Waterproof Dustproof Shockproof Travel Charger - Reduced down to £21.99

Security Camera: Y-cam HomeMonitor HD Pro Outdoor WiFi Security Camera - For only 139.99 at Amazon

Storage: Toshiba HDWC240EK3J1 4TB Stor.e Canvio - Down to £98.96 at Amazon

Headphones: AKG K702 Open-Back Dynamic Reference Headphones - For as little as £149 at Amazon

Mouse: Logitech Touch M600 Mouse - Now only £15.99 at Amazon

Audio: Denon DA-300USB Audio DAC with USB-B - Reduced from £329 down to £189.90 at Amazon

Headphones: Sennheiser HD 558 High End Open Over-Ear Headphones - For as little as £99 at Amazon

Storage: Seagate 4TB Expansion Desktop External Hard Drive - For as little as £99 at maplin

Bluetooth Transmitter: August MR250 - Bluetooth Wireless Transmitter - Now only £19.75 at Amazon

Camera: Canon PowerShot SX400 16MP Bridge Camera - Down to £129.99 at Argos

Smartphone: Vodafone Pay As You Go Nokia Lumia 530 Handset - Reduced down to £39.99 at Amazon

Printer: HP M251n LaserJet Pro 200 Color Printer - Reduced down to £79.99 at Amazon

Powerbank: TeckNet® Power Bank 12000mAh Fast Portable Charger Battery Pack USB - Reduced down to £13.97 at Amazon

Sound Base - Sony HT-XT1 2.1 Channel Wireless S-Force PRO Sound Base with Built In Subwoofer - For as little as £229 at Amazon

Keyboard: Logitech Ultrathin Magnetic Clip On Keyboard for iPad Air 2 - For only £49.99 at Amazon

Headphones: Technics RP-DH1250E-S Professional DJ Headphones - Down to £81.52 at Amazon

Sport Watch: Polar M400 GPS Heart Rate Monitor Watch - Only £129 at Amazon

Camcorder: Joby GorillaPod Video Tripod for Mini and Pocket Camcorders - For as little as £13.99 at Amazon

Games deals of the day

Xbox One: Shape Up (Xbox One) - Now only £20.38 at Amazon

Xbox One: Metro Redux - Down to £14.99 at Amazon

PS4: Batman: Arkham Knight (Free Pre-order DLC) - For only £37.99 at Zavvi

PS4: Lego Marvel Superheroes (PS4) - For only £19.50 at tesco

Xbox One: Assassin's Creed IV 4: Black Flag Xbox One (Digital Code) - For as little as £3.95 at cdkeys

PC: Cities Skylines Deluxe Edition - Only £16.99 at base

PS Vita: FIFA 15 - Now only £16 at Amazon

PS4: Pro-Evolution Soccer 2015 - Down to £26.50 at Amazon

Xbox One: Pro-Evolution Soccer 2015 - Down to £26.50 at Amazon

Nintendo Wii U: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes - Down to £16.99 at Amazon

PS4: Destiny - Only £25 at Amazon

ps4

The week's best PS4 deals:

There's no doubt that Sony's PlayStation 4 is the hottest games console on the planet now. Here are the cheapest PS4 standalone and bundle prices we've found this week:

Cheapest PS4 console: Get the PS4 console on its own at Amazon for just £319.00

DealsRadar's Top 3 PS4 bundles...

Deal 1: Get the PS4 with Lego Batman 3 &The Lego Movie for just £351.00

Deal 2: Get the PS4 with The Crew at The Hut for just £339.99

Deal 3: Get the PS4 with Dying Light at The Hut for only £349.99

xbox one

The week's best Xbox One deals:

The Xbox One has evolved into a fantastic, versatile console with loads of cool features. Here are the cheapest Xbox One standalone and bundle prices we've found this week:

Cheapest Xbox One console: Get the Xbox One on its own at eBay for just £269.99

DealsRadar's Top 3 Xbox One bundles:

Deal 1: Get the Xbox One with Forza 5 for just £329.00

Deal 2: Get the White Xbox One with Sunset Overdrive for just £279.99

Deal 3: Get the Xbox One with Halo MC Collection, Battlefield Hardline, Ori and the Blind Forest & 1 month EA Access for only £319.99

See more Xbox One deals: Best Xbox One bundles and deals

gamesmontage

Top 10 Games: best titles, cheapest prices!

The best games at the cheapest prices

We all want to play the top games, but none of us want to pay top prices, right? We'll be scanning the web on a daily basis to find the best prices on all of the top selling games on all of the top gaming platforms. So if you're going to order a new game online this week - check with DealsRadar first!

dying light

1. Dying Light

Dying Light is a first-person, action survival horror game set in a vast and dangerous open world. During the day, players traverse an expansive urban environment overrun by a vicious outbreak, scavenging the world for supplies and crafting weapons to defend against the growing infected population. At night, the hunter becomes the hunted, as the infected become aggressive and more dangerous. Most frightening are the predators which only appear after sundown. Players must use everything in their power to survive until the morning's first light.

Best PS4 price: £42.99 at Amazon | Best Xbox One price: £42.91 at Amazon | Best PC price: £21.90 at cdkeys

gta

2. Grand Theft Auto V

The biggest, most dynamic and most diverse open world ever created, Grand Theft Auto V blends storytelling and gameplay in new ways as players repeatedly jump in and out of the lives of the game's three lead characters, playing all sides of the game's interwoven story.

Best PS4 price: £40.00 at Amazon | Best Xbox One price: £41.00 at Amazon | Best PC price: £29.97 at GameStop

fifa 15

3. FIFA 15

FIFA 15 brings football to life in stunning detail so fans can experience the emotion of the sport like never before. Witness the intensity of crowds chanting and cheering like on match day, and listen to commentators guide fans through the story of the game with dynamic match presentation.

Best PS4 price: £34.00 at Amazon | Best Xbox One price: £34.99 at Amazon | Best PC price: £33.00 at Amazon

cod

4. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare envisions the powerful battlegrounds of the future, where both technology and tactic have evolved to usher in a new era of combat for the franchise. Delivering a stunning performance, Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey stars as Jonathan Irons – one of the most powerful men in the world – shaping this chilling vision of the future of war.

Best PS4 price: £23.85 at Simplygames | Best Xbox One price: £23.85 at Simplygames | Best PC price: £18.90 at cdkeys

dragonball

5. Dragon ball Xenoverse

Dragon Ball Xenoverse will bring all the frenzied battles between Goku and his most fierce enemies, such as Vegeta, Frieza, Cell and much more, with new gameplay design!

Best PS4 price: £48.85 at ShopTo | Best Xbox One price: £44.09 at Base | Best PC price: £29.99 at GAME

minecraft

6. Minecraft

Experience the Minecraft gaming phenomenon, rebuilt with new features designed for console. Create worlds limited only by your imagination. Explore, build, and conquer alone or with your friends via split-screen mode or online.

Best PS4 price: £12.99 at John Lewis | Best Xbox One price: £14.00 at John Lewis

the order

7. The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886 introduces players to a unique vision of Victorian-Era London where Man uses advanced technology to battle a powerful and ancient foe. As Galahad, a member of an elite order of Knights, join a centuries-old war against a powerful threat that will determine the course of history forever in this intense third-person action-adventure shooter, available exclusively on the PS4 system.

Best PS4 price: £43.99 at Zavvi

zomie army

8. Zombie Army Trilogy

Zombie Army Trilogy is a terrifyingly intense third person shooter set in a gruesome alternate vision of World War II. Berlin 1945. Facing defeat at the hands of the Allies, Hitler has unleashed one last unholy gamble - a legion of undead super soldiers that threatens to overwhelm the whole of Europe. Fight alone or team up to save humanity from the zombie menace in this apocalyptic shooter for 1-4 players!

Best PS4 price: £29.99 at Argos | Best Xbox One price: £29.99 at Argos

evolve

9. Evolve

The creators of Left 4 Dead, Turtle Rock Studios, bring you Evolve, the next-generation of multiplayer shooters, in which four hunters face off against a single player-controlled monster. Stalk your prey, execute your attack, and prove you are the apex predator in adrenaline-pumping 4v1 matches

Best PS4 price: £42.99 at Zavvi | Best Xbox One price: £28.85 at Simplygames | Best PC price: £22.90 at cdkeys

car cry 4

10. Far Cry 4

Built from the legendary DNA of its award-winning predecessor, Far Cry 4 delivers the most expansive and immersive Far Cry experience yet in an entirely new and massive open world, with integrated drop-in/drop-out co-op play.

Best PS4 price: £44.98 at Zavvi | Best Xbox One price: £44.86 at ShopTo | Best PC price: £21.99 at cdkeys

best cheap tvs

Best cheap TV deals of the week:

DealsRadar understands that not everyone wants to spend thousands on a new TV. Here are the best cheap TV deals we found online this week.

Cheap TV deal 1: Samsung UE32H5000 HD TV | Now £219 | Amazon

Cheap TV deal 2: LG 40UB800V Smart 4k Ultra HD 40" LED TV | £449 | Currys

Cheap TV deal 3: LG 55UB820V 55" Smart 4K TV | Now £899 | Currys

Read more: Cheap TV: 25 best TV deals for March 2015

hard drive deals

Hard drives and storage:

With smartphones recording 4K video and taking photos at 50MB a pop, it's not surprising that our laptops are running out of storage space.

Cheap Storage deal 1: Toshiba HDWC130EW3J1 3TB Stor.E Canvio | Now £74.95 | Amazon

Cheap Storage deal 2: Kingston 64GB USB 3.0 DataTraveler Mini Flash Drive | Now £15.99 | Amazon

Cheap Storage deal 3: Samsung Memory 32GB Evo MicroSDHC UHS-I Grade 1 Class 10 Memory Card with USB Adapter | Now 317.46 | Amazon

Cheap Storage deal 4: Seagate Backup Plus 8TB USB 3.0 Desktop 3.5 inch External Hard Drive | Now £199.99 | Amazon

Read more: Best Hard Drive Deals

portable power bank

Portable phone chargers:

If your smartphone or tablet is constantly running out of power at the most inconvenient times, you should think about buying a portable power bank.

Cheap Portable Charger deal 1: TeckNet® Power Bank 12000mAh Fast Portable Charger Battery Pack | Now £13.97 | Amazon

Cheap Portable Charger deal 2: EasyAcc 10000mAh Brilliant Ultra Slim Dual USB | Now £18.99 | Amazon

Cheap Portable Charger deal 3: VINSIC 20000mAh Ultra-slim Power Bank | Now £25.90 | Amazon

Cheap Portable Charger deal 4: Anker® Astro Mini 3200mAh Ultra-Compact Lipstick-Sized Portable Power Bank | Now £13.99 | Amazon

gift card

Gift cards:

Amazon gift cards | John Lewis gift cards | Currys gift cards| PC World gift cards | GAME gift cards


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Review: Updated: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Introduction

A mini handset has, inexplicably, come to mean a smaller, lower-spec version of a popular big screen device, which does nothing for those that want a slightly smaller display.

With the release of the Xperia Z1 Compact in 2014 (having launched in Japan in 2013) we were pleased to see Sony bucking the trend by shrinking down the powerful Xperia Z1 but losing almost nothing on the spec list, giving the Z1 Compact a real chance to fight fight in a fierce market, that at the time was dominated by the HTC One Mini 2 and Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini, two devices that launched to critical acclaim but with a poorer spec list.

It's a trick that Sony has since repeated with the Xperia Z3 Compact, which again manages to pack a lot of the Xperia Z3's best features into a smaller body.

Eagle eyed readers will have noticed that the Sony Xperia Z1's baby brother hasn't adopted the traditional "Mini" moniker but rather comes with the title of "Compact".

Yes, Sony has given the Z1 Compact the smaller screen, but it has kicked diminutive RAM and lesser cores to the mobile kerb. Sony has even allowed the Xperia Z1 Compact to keep the waterproof nature of the Z1.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact can now be picked up from as little as £215 SIM-free ($317, around AU$413) and free on contracts starting at £18 per month.

Despite the recent price drops, this does mean that the Xperia Z1 Compact is still more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and the HTC One Mini, which launched around 6 months earlier and have also seen their fair share of price drops since their newer versions (the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One Mini 2 respectively) came out.

This higher cost does allow much better specs though: it means the inclusion of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.2GHz quad-core CPU backed up by 2GB RAM for instance.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact's successor, the Xperia Z3 Compact, has also seen a few price drops of its own, and can be had for around £290 (around $428, AU$557). With a Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz CPU, the Xperia Z3 Compact has a slight edge over the Xperia Z1 Compact, but not enough that you should discount the cheaper handset, which offers fantastic value for money.

The "Compact" name also alludes to more than just the smaller size; it can be no coincidence that the Xperia Z1 Compact shares its name with the style of camera that it is looking to replace. A 20.7MP Exmor sensor housed behind an award-winning G Lens aims to be the final nail in the compact camera coffin.

Unsurprisingly, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact follows in the same design language that was started with the Xperia Z1.

A full frontal glass assault is joined by an all glass rear that gives the Xperia Z1 Compact a really clean feel. The choice of four colours (black, white, pink and lime) means that the business feel can be offset a little if you wish.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

While the glass adds to the industrial feel, I found that it also meant I became a little obsessed with keeping it clean. Those that find they are forever trying to clean the screen to remove pesky fingerprints will find that that feeling transfers identically to the back.

It also hoovers up dust from the pocket, making it a real eyesore when you're just trying to look at a quick text.

The chassis, measuring at 127 x 64.9 x 9.55mm, curves slightly at the edges allowing the screen to be protected from side impacts, as well as allowing it to sit comfortably in the hand. I found that the metal and glass often left the Xperia Z1 Compact cold to touch when left out, but the material combination also leaves it feeling premium.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

It's this combination of materials that leaves the Z1 Compact sitting on the scales at 137g, although I found that I still needed to check my pocket occasionally to see if it was still there. There is no doubt that the phone feels a little heavy at first, especially when compared to the almost impossibly light Galaxy S5 Mini, but this feeling disappears as quickly as it is noticed.

The smaller frame made using the Xperia Z1 Compact easy to use one handed, and didn't suffer the same problems of grip that beset the original Xperia Z1. The power key in particular was pretty easy to hit.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

The curved edges also meant that I found it was more comfortable in one-handed use than the iPhone 5S, retaining the same business feel but without the sharp edges. However, the feel in the hand is one of a chunkier device - it doesn't have the same smooth stylings of the HTC One M8, for instance, and does feel quite hefty compared to other, better-balanced, phones.

Behind all that glass sits the first clue that the Xperia Z1 Compact isn't quite a fully-fledged flagship; a 720p 4.3-inch screen.

Many may scoff at the lower resolution, but Sony has given the screen a lot of attention, certainly more than was provided to the original Z1.

Pure stats show that the Xperia Z1 Compact has enough to compete, as its 340ppi outstrips that of the four-inch iPhone 5S, and even the newer iPhone 6. The Xperia Z3 Compact's larger 4.6-inch screen keeps the same 720p resolution, which means the newer handset has a slightly lower pixel density at 319ppi. Even so, the level of attention goes deeper than that as Sony looked to address issues that were found when the Xperia Z1 launched.

Gone are poor viewing angles thanks to the inclusion of IPS technology to join the Bravia and Triluminos tech that were found in Sony's largest handset, the Xperia Z Ultra.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

However, coming to this from looking at a 1080p screen and you will be able to see the drop in level of sharpness - it's not massive, but the Z1 Compact doesn't have the clearest screen on the market.

Making the Xperia Z1 Compact dust and waterproof (to IP55 and IP58 standards) can't have been easy with the number of ports that the modern smartphone requires. Thankfully, Sony has managed this well, leaving me impressed with the way they are securely covered.

All bar one of the ports comes with an attached bit of plastic that stands up to some rigorous pulling, with Sony having fully waterproofed the 3.5mm headphone jack. Even the external speaker that runs across the base of the Xperia Z1 Compact has been given the treatment.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

The microUSB port and microSD slot (the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact supports up to a further 64GB of storage) are housed at the top of the left side, with the microSIM tray sat at the base. I found that this tray was rather flimsy, as well as being difficult enough to require tweezers to remove. Popping in a microSD card was a lot simpler.

With all the ports in the left side, Sony has left the right-hand edge to be populated with a couple of buttons. Amongst these is the standard volume rocker sat just below Sony's round and imposing power/lock button, as well as a TechRadar favourite: a dedicated camera shutter button.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

This serves a few purposes as it allows the Z1 Compact's 20.7MP camera to be loaded (and even have the photo shot right away) in one touch, as well as allowing photos to be taken underwater as the screen doesn't have to be pressed.

It also allows the camera app to function more like a fully fledged camera, with focussing and snapping being really easy.

The top and bottom edges contain only the waterproofed 3.5mm headphone jack and external speaker, respectively.

As with every smartphone, the back of the phone contains the camera sensor and LED flash. Elsewhere, only the Sony and NFC branding break up the solid glass rear.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

The Xperia Z1 Compact may come a higher price tag than its 'Mini' counterparts but also packs a smarter more professional feel backed up with whizzier insides that warrant a second and third look.

Big Heart, Big Camera, Small frame

One of the first things most will do when checking out a phone is have a look at the spec list. I know that specification lists only tell half the story of a handset, but this is a half that Sony has given a lot of thought to.

The power

One of the biggest things that stands out on the spec sheet is the Z1 Compact comes with flagship-sized insides. Sony has kept the same Snapdragon 800 SoC that packs a 2.2GHz quad-core CPU and Adreno 330 GP, as well as the 2GB RAM that keeps it all running smoothly.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

This puts it on par with the likes of the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5, not just the Mini versions of these devices - and at a price that's not too dissimilar either. Both these market-leading flagship alternatives come with 2GB RAM and quad-core CPUs clocked at 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz respectively.

It also means that the Xperia Z1 Compact comes more impressively specced than the Mini rivals it sits alongside. Both the Galaxy S5 Mini and HTC One Mini 2 are equipped with 1.5GB and 1GB of RAM respectively. Though the Galaxy S5 Mini has a quad-core processor, it's only clocked at 1.4GHz, quite a bit lower than the older Xperia Z1.

The camera

Sony has given the Xperia Z1 Compact the same camera technology from the original Xperia Z1; namely the goliath 20.7MP sensor and the G Lens.

While it may not match up to the same 41MP that is found within the Windows Phone-toting Nokia Lumia 1020, it is one of the most advanced sensors found in Android handsets.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

This dwarfs the sensors that are found in the HTC One M8 which comes with four 'UltraPixels', as well as the 16MP and 8MP sensors that are found in the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S5 Mini.

The most impressive thing here is how all these specs have been left largely untouched and yet still squashed into a smaller frame than the full flagships of the Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8, meaning that the Xperia Z1 Compact sits incredibly nicely in the pocket and even more comfortably in the hand.

That same frame is also built out of metal and glass, that while adding a noticeable heft also allows the Xperia Z1 Compact to feel high end, even allowing it to retain the same waterproof nature of its bigger brother.

Using the phone in the bath has never been so simple.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The interface

Being a Sony handset also means the Z1 Compact comes loaded with Sony's Android UI, giving it some tweaks from the standard Android UI that graces the Google Nexus 5, as well as giving it a completely different feel from Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's Sense.

Sony's Android UI is something that's worth looking at - it's a stripped down version of the heavier skins of the rivals and will please those looking for a more sleek version of Android while still enjoying some tweakery.

That said, there's still a lot of emphasis on Sony products when you turn on the phone, with the likes of Video and Music Unlimited being rammed down your throat as 'Recommended' content and the main media apps front and centre.

Sony's media offerings are decent enough, but they're not real USPs at this time, with things like Music Unlimited a poor alternative to Spotify, meaning you'll have to head out into the Play Store to update these after purchase in some instances.

Sony's Video Unlimited section, for instance, allows the purchase and streaming of movies without needing to sign up to a monthly subscription in much the same way as Tesco's BlinkBox service.

Peer beyond the extra apps though and you're greeted with a phone that's really got a lot of power in a small package without being too obtrusive - and that's going to appeal to a lot of people.

Interface and performance

Sony originally equipped the Xperia Z1 Compact with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, which was a little disappointing given that KitKat had been out for a while.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The good news is that the Xperia Z1 Compact has since been upgraded to Android 4.4.2, bringing you all the latest goodies from Google.

Sony also announced that it will be bringing the latest version,Android 5.0 Lollipop, to the Xperia Z1 Compact in due course.

Sony has already begun rolling out Android 5.0 Lollipop to the newer Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact devices, so we will hopefully see Google's latest and greatest mobile operating system hitting the Xperia Z1 Compact pretty soon.

Over the top of KitKat, Sony has equipped the Xperia Z1 Compact with a very well rounded and intuitive design.

Every OEM installs a level of customisation to differentiate themselves; Samsung has its TouchWiz design and HTC has Sense.

From the attractive slide-style unlock to the clean icons and the customised app drawer, it's clear that Sony has given its UI some real thought.

I am particularly fond of the app drawer, as it allows easy navigation though a toolbar located at the far left. It's these little touches that make smartphones feel smart.

The inclusion of themes is also pleasant, giving the Xperia Z1 Compact a slightly different feel and allowing you to change the whole look depending on your mood.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The multitasking pane hides a feature that I think Sony should have made more of a song and dance about, as it rivals the multi-window feature on the Galaxy S5.

The ability to have floating apps such as a browser or screen shot made multitasking a lot easier and have long been a good feature of Sony devices - being able to simply open up a timer or calculator can be a godsend, although not having a torch option there seems weird.

A notification light (with multiple colours) also comes equipped on the Xperia Z1 Compact, giving it a leg up over the HTC One Mini 2 and Galaxy S5 Mini.

For those that like to know whether they have a missed message, this is an almost vital inclusion.

My love for widgets was also well catered for with Sony allowing you to add up to seven home screens, long-pressing open areas to add them. I was disappointed to find that there is no infinite scrolling though, something that makes the Xperia Z1 Compact feel a little less fluid when swiping around.

Fluidity is something that exudes from the phone, aided by the 2.2GHz quad-core CPU and 2GB RAM. Moving between screens is a dream, and I found no hint of slowdown even when downloading large files, playing music and web browsing simultaneously.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Looking at the GeekBench 3 results it is easy to see why; the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact averaged 2731 on multi-core performance.

Interestingly though I did find that before the Android 4.4 KitKat update, the Xperia Z1 Compact had a slightly better average at 2884.

That's not a huge difference, and when it comes to every day performance you won't notice any change between Jelly Bean and KitKat.

Comparing the new score with those listed on the GeekBench site, the Xperia Z1 Compact still scores higher than nearly all the listed devices on multi-core.

This can be attributed to the smaller screen size, with the Adreno 330 GPU not being put under extra strain having to redraw the extra pixels that full HD displays require.

Whilst many may have scoffed at the idea of a handset that 'isn't even full HD', this has been beneficial to the Z1 Compact whilst still providing a crystal clear viewing experience.

Sure, it's not got the razor sharp clarity, but that boost in performance (and, as you'll see later, battery life) is certainly worth having. If you like a smaller screen anyway, this is quickly turning into one of the main phones to be packing.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The hardware within the screen also hides a really nifty feature; the ability to use it with gloves on.

With winter proving that capacitive screens aren't best suited to texting in the cold, the ability to wear normal gloves whilst sending texts is a godsend.

It also means that if you're deft enough, you can pretend to be a Jedi and move the screen without touching it.

This mode does show a larger circle on the screen when activated, which will pop up on occasion even when you're not using gloves.

I'd say it's worth having it turned off most of the time as it also sucks power - unless you're in a particularly icy country. Or just fricking love gloves.

Battery life and the essentials

Battery life

With the amazing specs that sit inside the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, it would be a more than reasonable assumption to believe the battery pack would have to be enormous. Instead, it sits at a rather meagre-sounding 2300mAh.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Battery life is all relative though. For instance, the Galaxy S5 has a 2800mAh option, but has as much larger screen, less efficient CPU and more pixels to deal with, so I think this size to weight combo from Sony is spot on.

During general day to day use, I found that the battery behind the Xperia Z1 Compact was a lot more than sufficient.

To help properly quantify this, from 7am one day I sent and received four emails, 140 SMS messages, had a race on Asphalt 8and took 70 pictures as well as uploading them via Wi-Fi to Dropbox in an area with patchy signal.

I still had a whopping 53% battery left at midnight. Lighter users should achieve two days' usage easily.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The Xperia Z1 Compact also performed well against the top-endHTC One M8 (which packs in a 2600mAh battery) in day to day use.

The impressive battery life can be attributed to the smaller screen and lower resolution placing a lot less strain on the GPU (but then again, the same could be said of the Mini rivals), coupled with Sony's battery-saving techniques. Stamina mode is particularly impressive, as it cuts down the amount of work the phone has to do.

Turning this on gave an estimated boost from 11 hours of use to a whole day which was perfect, giving the Xperia Z1 Compact the extra juice to cope with being away from the charger, and really will stave off battery depletion in general day to day life.

Having the quick toggles in the notification bar also means that switching Wi-Fi on and off, as well as disabling GPS or mobile data (things that can heavily drain the battery) is really easy.

A special shout out should be saved for the Qualcomm 800 chip at the heart of the Z1 Compact too - it's a real power saver and, while it does seem to diminish over time (and has been replaced by the 801 processor seen in the new wave of phones) the general efficiency is something that I've given a big thumbs up to.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact also comes with all the necessary connectivity options too; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, 4G LTE and GPS are all catered for. This ensures it is able to compete against all the 4G-toting flagships.

The essentials

There are certain features that any modern smartphone should include, and one of those is the ability to make and receive phone calls.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

I found that calls always came through clearly, leaving no times where I was struggling to hear or struggling to be heard. Signal holding was also as impressive, getting and holding signal as well as the HTC One M8.

In-call options were limited to the standard Android options (speaker phone, Bluetooth, keyboard etc) which will suffice for most. However, I would like to see some more innovation here, as companies like Samsung have implemented features like instantly being able to re-dial or message a contact when you hang up.

The contacts app is clean and well designed, the addition of the letters down the right hand side making it supremely easy to navigate quickly.

The messaging options on the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact are also all in order without being spectacular. In order to accomplish this Sony has included a skinned SMS app, as well as the standard email and Gmail apps plus Google Hangouts.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

None of the apps are inspiring, yet are all completely functional. The SMS app look is customised with the phone's theme, meaning you can't set custom backgrounds and font styles. It's a little thing, but something that the Z1 Compact would feel smarter for having.

Missives are handled with the Xperia keyboard, which appears to be modelled on the superb Swiftkey keyboard.

Unfortunately, Sony seems to have taken a near-perfect third-party app and diminished its effectiveness; the space bar is far too short so I kept hitting the full stop button.

Regularly sending messages that read "Hello. How.are.you today?" proves to be more than a little frustrating. This is something that Sony really needs to look at, perhaps go back to the drawing board and change a little less of what makes Swiftkey so popular.

On the plus side you can remove the smiley key, which makes the spacebar slightly wider, but it's still not a particularly brilliant typing experience.

You could just download the original SwiftKey keyboard (or other decent alternatives on the market, although this is my favourite) but that can involve a little bit of cash. If you do buy this phone, I urge you to do so though.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Unlike many OEMs, Sony hasn't included a version of the stock Android browser to sit alongside Google Chrome, thereby removing any confusion over which browser is best to use. Chrome has always been my preference as it syncs with the Chrome desktop browser, as well as any other devices.

Web browsing on the 4.3-inch screen was never going to be as pleasant as on a full five-inch flagship, but viewing sites on the Xperia Z1 Compact was still easy as text was legible and images were bright.

The downside to having no stock browser is that it misses out on Flash support, something that is built into the HTC browser. Text reflow is also missing. With all the extras added to the UI, Sony really could have given a little something extra to the Android browser.

It's also quite hard on the phone's power, as there was sometimes some lag scrolling around the screen when using Chrome. I've seen the same thing on the HTC One, which works fine on its own inbuilt browser, so be warned that you might not have a stellar browsing experience on the Z1 Compact.

Camera

Sony has clearly put a lot of work into the Xperia Z1 Compact's camera, and it shows. Based purely on specifications the 20.7MP sensor dwarfs almost the entire smartphone market, but Sony has also taken a look deeper.

The whole camera app is well designed, and comes with enough features to satisfy both the amateur photographer looking to come up with some creative snaps that they can post to Instagram or Twitter, as well as the more serious photographer looking for something to replace the need to carry a compact.

Standard images in well-lit conditions are second to none, although the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact does appear to suffer in lower light conditions. This is an area that HTC has pretty much nailed with its UltraPixel technology, and is a little disappointing in a camera that promises so much.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The inclusion of a dedicated shutter button does wonders. Not only does it allow for the quick launch of the app and capture of images, it also allows the camera to focus before capture. Being completely waterproof it also lets you capture images underwater, something difficult if you have to hit an on-screen button.

The downside is that this button is very small, quite stiff and doesn't make it clear when you've actually depressed it or not - it's still good to have, but I've used better on phones.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

An Augmented Reality mode allows the capture of images with a layer added over the top, whether it be a 60s disco mode that gives faces funky glasses and big hair, or the butterfly mode that adds a few plants and insects.

This is something that I can see really appealing to those with younger kids, as you can pretend that the Xperia Z1 Compact is magic and can peer into a world that people can't normally see.

Other creative modes include the ability to add effects such as sketch images, brighten colours or create a Kaleidoscope. These are perfect for those who want to create something that can be shared via social media, but add little else.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

One filter that I really enjoyed was the partial colour mode. The Xperia Z1 Compact brings up a black and white image of what you can see, only allowing one specific colour to be added to an otherwise monochromatic image.

While this allows the creation of some pretty spectacular images, the range of colour that is taken can sometimes be really disappointing. It would be better if you could select items rather than specific colours.

The mode most users will use is Superior Auto, as it automatically selects all the best presets based on what is in front of you. Sony has also included the ability to allow you to change certain things though, thereby appeasing the more experienced photographer.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

White balance can be changed, as well as exposure, and different scene modes can also be selected. These change the settings slightly in order to allow a better shot in certain conditions.

Sony has also included three other main modes on the Xperia Z1 Compact's camera, the fourth being a sweep panorama mode that functions in the same way as on every other smartphone.

These three modes are Info-eye, Timeshift Burst and Social live. Info-eye captures a photo and then offers up information about what you have just snapped in the same way as Google Goggles, only its integration into the camera app makes it feel a lot more useful.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The second, Timeshift Burst, is something that users of Sony phones of old will be very used to. A series of images are captured before and after you press the shutter button and presented in a fan allowing you to swipe through images and choose which one is best.

This is a mode that will prove incredibly useful if you take a lot of photos of faces, or of children that just won't sit still.

The final mode worth noting is the Social live feature, which does exactly what you might expect from the name. If you've connected it up to Facebook it broadcasts a live feed to those that follow your news feed, perfect for those that want to hold live web chats.

My overall time with the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact's camera was one that left me slightly cold. It's not a bad snapper by any stretch of the imagination, but given it's got so much heritage in the imaging space it's actually confusing how badly the Superior Auto mode can perform indoors.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The likes of the LG G3 are much better at analysing an image and using software to improve things - the Sony option ends up with a really muddy picture with elements distorted at the outlying areas.

Images in good light and strong outlines are excellent though; if you're looking for a really powerful camera the Z1 Compact won't disappoint.

However, if you want something for day to day photography then I suggest you look elsewhere - HTC's option is much clearer and faster, despite not giving you many snaps you'd want to pull out and frame.

Camera samples

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Click here to see full resolution image

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Click here to see full resolution image

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Click here to see full resolution image

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

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Media

Given its background in media Sony should be able to produce a device that is more than capable when it comes to media playback. To that end, I want a great music player, the industry's best media player and the most intuitive way of looking through your photos.

The Xperia Z1 Compact is pretty close in a number of those categories, but I do still have some reservations.

But let's start with the positives: the music player is certainly well-equipped.

Music

Those with large media libraries are catered for with the inclusion of a microSD slot giving it an immediate advantage over the likes of the storage-restricted iPhone 6.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The Walkman history comes into play with the Xperia Z1 Compact; Sony clearly playing on its heritage to tempt you over to its music playing app. There is more to the Walkman app than just media playing though, instead becoming the hub of all your music, including streaming.

Many will likely have subscriptions to the likes of Spotify or Deezer, but Sony also has its own Music Unlimited service that ships with nearly every Sony device from laptops to smart TVs. This is well integrated into the Walkman app, meaning that you don't feel pressured into signing up, but Sony will be pleased to hear that it can prove tempting.

However, that's the initial stage. And it's pretty fiddly to remove the Music Unlimited stuff that's there from the outset - loads of tiles designed to farm you towards paying money to have a subscription.

And it's a poor service - sure, it works across a number of devices, but signing up is a connection nightmare and the speed of streaming or even loading albums a joke at times. I know it's not the only reason to use the app, but it's so tightly integrated it really irritates.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

In fairness, the number of songs available actually exceeds those to be found on Spotify, but such is the inadequacy of search it feels like there are many missing when there aren't. However, at least you're not bombarded by a million covers of the song you actually want, which is one of many users' biggest bugbears with Spotify.

In terms of pure music playback, the Walkman app is more than sufficient, providing all the necessary controls in a visually pleasing shell. I found the bright colours that changed with each album's artwork to be a nice change from the far duller and less colourful experience on iPhones or Samsungs.

The external speaker is also well placed for music playback. Sitting alongside the bottom end of the phone means that when laying down music isn't muffled. Volume was similarly not an issue.

With the Z1 Compact on a shelf and working on the other side of the room I was still able to hear the music. It is no rival to the BoomSound on the HTC One M8, but more effective than the Galaxy S5 Mini, and comes with xLoud ability that boosts output pleasantly.

Placement of the external speaker could cause problems on the Xperia Z1, as when watching movies it can be a little frustrating to have sound largely reaching only one ear. This isn't a problem I encountered, as I found the majority of movies were watched with headphones on.

Movies

Being only 4.3 inches does mean that the Xperia Z1 Compact lacks a little for those who want to be able to watch a lot of movies on the commute. For them, the larger-screened flagships such as the Galaxy S5 or phablets like the iPhone 6 Plus would be far more appropriate.

The screen has had a lot of attention lavished on it since the Xperia Z1 however, with Sony giving the Z1 Compact the same IPS and TriLuminous technology that are found in the much larger Xperia Z Ultra. This solved problems that were originally found with colour reproduction and viewing angles, it's good to see Sony taking note.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

However I wasn't impressed with the brightness on side-loaded videos, with most erring on the dark side even with brightness turned right up. It's a long way from other devices, but given that this isn't the phone for the movie fan, I can't see it being a huge problem.

Sony's movies app is well designed, being both attractive and highly functional. Load it up, and the last movie you were watching plays silently in the background meaning you're not left looking at a static screen.

It's only a small touch but is something that will delight and makes you feel you're playing with a premium device.

Also included for movies is Sony's Video Unlimited app. I was a little sceptical about the inclusion, but the app is very well stocked with some of the most recent films and doesn't require a monthly subscription. Movies can be downloaded or rented with prices matching those of purchasing or renting a DVD.

All media can be 'thrown' via DLNA, allowing streaming to devices such as Smart TVs. The Xperia Z1 Compact also allows the screen to be mirrored, perfect for watching movies or showing off all your photos on the big screen.

The bad news is I found that this didn't work as well as I'd hoped, with the connection often timing out before the screen was mirrored.

It's the bane of smartphone connections everywhere, and until it's made perfect the general public won't see this as a reason to buy a top-end handset.

Games

Gaming is handled superbly on the Xperia Z1 Compact with the four cores sat behind the screen handling even the more graphically intensive games with ease. Racing in Asphalt 8 was nothing short of a pleasure, with the lower resolution also helping the Adreno 330 GPU to keep things running smoothly.

Sony has also included its PlayStation store to grant access to a wider range of apps and games that cannot be found on the Play store. These games can seem expensive though, and the range on offer was not as wide as that of the Google alternative.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

One of the greatest advantages that the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has for gaming is that it doesn't need a separate Bluetooth controller, as it can connect to the DualShock controller used with the PlayStation 3.

This makes mobile gaming a lot easier, although needing a (separately purchased) USB cable renders it a little pointless.

If Sony thinks of a way to connect the two wirelessly, the Xperia Z1 Compact would make a great portable games console, connecting to TVs via the screen mirroring, but right now it will remain a cool feature that most won't bother with for a while yet unless you take a trip to Amazon and get a cut price option.

Sony has rectified this with the Xperia Z3 Compact, where you can connect a PlayStation 4 DualShock controller via Bluetooth. You can also use the Z3 Compact to stream PlayStation 4 games from the console to the smartphone via the Remote Play app. I'd love to see that feature brought to the Z1 Compact, but sadly it looks unlikely.

The competition

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is a phone that looks Mini but packs a Mighty punch. The key thing to realise here is that it's a phone that isn't a rival to the mid-range market, but a brilliant example of a smartphone for those that don't want a massive screen.

So what of the rivals - how does it compare to the cream of the competition?

The one they all want to be

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Chances are that if you're looking at purchasing the Xperia Z1 Compact, you will have at least thought about buying an iPhone 6. Apple's handsets are well known for their media capabilities, as well as the wide range of apps on Apple's App Store.

There is no doubt that despite the many leaps and bounds that the Android Play Store has made, and the inclusion of the PlayStation store, that the App Store is ahead in terms of app population and app quality.

Apple has also managed to create a really tight ecosystem that syncs together almost perfectly; apps and data sync from iPhones to iPads to iMacs and MacBooks, making them more useful for people who hop between devices.

The iPhone 6 falters when it comes to screen resolution though, with the Xperia Z1 Compact managing to pack a 720p display into a similar size, making it more pleasant for watching movies and playing games. It is also easier to hold with its rounder edges, and is waterproof.

The iPhone 6 packs a resolution of 750 x 1334 into a 4.7-inch display, resulting in a pixel density of 326ppi (pixels per inch). The Xperia Z1 Compact fits a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels into a 4.3-inch display with a higher pixel density of 342ppi. The higher the pixel density, the sharper the image quality.

The big rival

Samsung S5

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is currently retailing at a very similar price tag to the Xperia Z1 Compact, even though it's more recent than Sony's offering. On the whole it seems that you may be getting more for your money with the Samsung too.

Its larger and higher res screen make it ideal for watching movies and for heavy web browsing, but also put a larger strain on the battery. The Galaxy S5 was a device that was built with media consumption in mind; media creation appears to have been put more on the back foot.

This means that the Xperia Z1 Compact beats the Galaxy S5 hands down when it comes to image capture.

The high-end specs also mean that it comes with slightly more powerful innards, although day to day use is largely fairly similar. Its smaller stature makes the Sony easier to hold, and the glass/metal construction also make it seem more fitting of a more premium price tag.

Sony's miniature marvel also excels in terms of battery life thanks to the Snapdragon 800 chip powering things along.

The Minis

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

With smaller screened and baby flagships proving to be one of the hottest areas of the mobile market, the Xperia Z1 Compact has a true fight on its hands in the form of the superb Samsung Galaxy S5 Miniand the HTC One Mini 2.

On paper the Z1 Compact has the beatings of both handsets; with double the number of cores, a lot more RAM and a better screen, be it quality or resolution. Both the HTC One Mini 2 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini sport 720p screens, but the Xperia Z1's screen is no match for Samsung's Super AMOLED offering.

Camera-wise the Xperia also smashes the S5 Mini and the One Mini 2, dwarfing the 8MP and 13MP found in those respective handsets. The HTC has the beating of the Z1 Compact in low light situations, though, as it captures more light with those larger pixels.

The HTC One Mini 2 does not come waterproofed either, although all these extra features on the Z1 Compact do mean that it comes with a heftier price tag.

Hands on images

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Verdict

Pitched with a smaller screen, it aims to challenge the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini and HTC One Mini 2 in the stakes to be king of the baby flagship while being a great option for those who just won't compromise on specs.

It's been upgraded since to the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, but that doesn't mean the lower price and the older tech are hindrances.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

We liked

The biggest draw of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has to be its flagship power. Packing four cores clocked at 2.2GHz and 2GB RAM into a shell that fits snugly around a 4.3-inch screen is something that can't have been done all that easily, yet all that power pays dividends, allowing for high-end gaming and super fast navigation.

l'm impressed by the Snapdragon 800 chip, bringing great power efficiency and strong 4G performance, and it's put to the best use yet in the Z1 Compact.

Design wise, the smaller Z1 also ticks all the right boxes. Sony has crafted a supremely gorgeous device that sits perfectly in one hand and forgoes all the issues that were found with the five-inch Xperia Z1.

On top of looking decent, the Xperia Z1 Compact's design is also highly functional as it is waterproof; perfect for those that have a habit of dropping phones in the bath.

In well lit situations its photos are second to none, and it packs a wide range of features that aren't available on other handsets. If you have kids, the AR mode will prove invaluable and those who need a decent camera with them for work will be well served by the 20.7MP offering.

We disliked

One of my biggest gripes with the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has to be that keyboard. It is far too fiddly, the spacebar in particular isn't long enough and results in every other space being a full stop. For a keyboard based on what is probably the best third-party offering out there it was really disappointing.

The glass construction also proved to be a little frustrating. For those who find having a grubby screen one of the most annoying things in the world, having that problem replicated on the back of the Xperia Z1 Compact will be a massive bugbear.

The rounded edges make things a little chunky-feeling too, but that's largely subjective... the people I showed it to were divided, some thinking that the glass / metal combo was excellent, and some finding it over the top.

Low light photography was also noticeably poor, just as it was on the original Xperia Z1. I'm surprised this hasn't been improved on since the Z1, and would have meant that the Z1 Compact came way out on top of the HTC One M8 and One Mini 2 in terms of indoor and darker photography.

I also really take issue with the Sony subscriptions stuffed on there - Music Unlimited is too poor to warrant being so front and centre, and the Video Unlimited isn't that different from the rest out there, although is a good place to sniff out a movie and excellent if you've got a PlayStation in the living room.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Verdict

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is the perfect device for those who think that some of the leading smartphones are just too big, but still want the best specs on the market.

Those top-end innards crammed into a smaller device means high-end power isn't missing for those with smaller hands, or if you want something more akin to the iPhone 5S.

Sony has addressed a lot of the problems that were found on the original Xperia Z1, and has created a superb handset in doing so. The screen doesn't suffer from the same poor viewing angles the Z1's did, although it will never be able to live up to the size and resolutions that modern flagships pack in.

A lot of focus will also be on the camera, and rightly so. The Xperia Z1 Compact's camera will often leave you wondering what the point of the traditional compact camera is, unless you plan to take a lot of photos inside or at night. It's a shame that potential of this 20.1MP Bionz / Exmor RS sensor isn't fully exploited - I was actually left rather confused as to why it can result in such noisy and muddy pictures.

Were it not for that (and the overbearing services Sony is pushing, which don't really add a lot) this would be an almost perfect phone, especially for a segment crying out for something like this.

But here's the upshot: the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact was the best phone the Japanese company had ever produced - it's been bettered since then with the Z3 Compact, but the bar this raised still remains mostly intact.

It's attacked a segment of the market that's been underloved very well, and done it at an almost-perfect price point.

The Z1 Compact is a phone with the prowess of all that Sony has to offer but in a package a lot of people will love, and as far as mini smartphones go it is only bettered by its successor, the Xperia Z3 Compact.

First reviewed: January 2014


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UPDATED: All 38 Apple Watch designs: Every band, case and face so far

Apple Watch: watch cases and bands

Apple Watch features

This week was the Apple Watch launch day, but you can't try on the iPhone-compatible wearable yet since we're a month away from pre-orders and two weeks further from its official release date.

That's a problem for anxious early adopters who want it now. The April 24-bound smartwatch comes in a variety of colors and styles, way more than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

In fact, there are 38 different Apple Watch choices (up from the original 34) and nine default watch faces with millions of customizations, according to Apple.

Here's every Apple Watch face, band and case announced so far, giving you extra time to decide which "iWatch" should be your watch before waiting in line.

Cases: Apple Watch vs Sport vs Watch Edition

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr72v7Z7m4Y

All Apple Watches boast the same rectangular design with rounded off corners, but they're divided up into three different case "collections" based on build materials.

Starting at $349 (£299) and costing as much as $17,000 (£13,500, AU$24,000), the names Watch, Watch Sport and Watch Edition, don't tell us a whole lot about those differences, so let's explain each watch case.

The regular Apple Watch

Apple Watch design and colors

Donning the "regular" Watch puts a highly polished stainless steel case on your wrist, one that comes in glossy metal colors of either space black or stainless steel.

Protecting the precious Retina display is sapphire crystal, which is the same glass that covers the Touch ID home button of newer iPhones.

Sapphire crystal is touted as the hardest transparent material on earth next to diamond. It'll stand up to dings every time your formerly-bare wrist forgets what it's like to wear a watch.

Watch Sport

Apple Watch design and colors

Sport is the the lightest of the three Apple Watch choices thanks to its anodized aluminum case that still manages to be 60% stronger than standard alloys.

It skips out of the expensive sapphire glass in favor of what Apple calls strengthened Ion-X or aluminosilicate glass. This further reduces the weight, making it fit for active lifestyles.

Sure, the iPhone-matching matte space gray and silver aluminum case appears less shiny vs the regular Watch, but Apple's 7000 Series aluminum and Ion-X glass makes it 30% lighter.

It's also the least expensive Apple Watch version at $349 (£299) for the 38mm size and 42mm for the $399 (£339) size.

Watch Edition

Apple Watch design and colors

Watch Edition will be the most expensive Apple Watch at $10,000 (£8,000) because of its 18-karat gold case. It may even be locked inside a safe within your local Apple Store.

It's been crafted by Apple's metallurgists to be twice as hard as standard gold, says the Cupertino company, and will come in two colors: yellow gold and rose gold.

Complementing those cases are color-matching bands made of leather or fluoroelastomer plastic.

Bands are the next step in deciding on the right Apple Watch.

Six different band styles, 18 colors

Apple Watch bands

Apple Watch is all about personalization with six band types and 18 colors, all of which are easily interchangeable thanks a unique slide-out locking mechanism.

Yes, it's a proprietary watch strap - did you expect anything less? - but it looks to be a whole lot easier to switch out compared to the irksome hidden pins of the Moto 360.

I'm okay with that. I want the sport band at the gym and the Milanese loop for a night on the town without the hassle of digging into the watch case with a pair of tweezers.

Link bracelet

Apple Watch bands

Apple Watch choices

Available with the regular Watch, the link bracelet is one of two stainless steel Apple Watch bands. This one matches the 316L stainless steel alloy of the case.

It has more than 100 components and the brushed metal links increase in width closer to the case. A custom butterfly closure folds neatly within the bracelet.

Best of all, you can add and remove links with a simple release button. No jeweler visits or special tools required for this stainless steel or space black-colored strap.

Milanese loop

Apple Watch bands

Apple Watch bands

One of the classiest-looking Apple Watch bands is the Milanese loop, a stainless steel mesh strap that loops from case to clasp.

Emphasizing that woven metal design, there's hardly a clasp. Its tiny magnetic end makes the strap infinitely adjustable and tucks behind the band for a seamless look on one's wrist.

An out-of-the box option with the regular Watch, the Milanese loop is truly one of a kind in that it only comes in a stainless steel color.

Modern buckle (leather strap)

Apple Watch bands

Apple Watch leather

A modern buckle adorns the bottom the first of three leather options among Apple Watches, complete with top-grain leather sourced from France.

The French tannery is said to have been established in 1803, but Apple puts a tech-savvy twist on the buckle. It's a two-piece magnetic clasp that only looks ordinary when together.

This leather option comes in black, soft pink, brown or midnight blue for the regular Watch and bright black, red or rose gray for the premium Watch Edition, all meant for the smaller 38mm watch size.

Classic buckle (leather strap)

Apple Watch design and colors

Apple Watch models

If the Apple Watch modern buckle is a normal-looking watch band with a magnetic twist, then the classic buckle is an ordinary-looking variant without one.

No tricks here. It's just a traditional and secure band that feeds through a stainless steel or an 18-karat gold loop and matches the watch case.

The classic buckle's leather is from the Netherlands and the color choices are as simple as can be: it comes in black for the regular Watch or either black or midnight blue for Watch Edition.

Leather loop

Apple Watch bands

Apple Watch design

This is the leather-equivalent of the all-metal Milanese loop because it tucks magnets into the soft, quilted leather Apple Watch band.

The more pronounced pebbled texture also stands out from the subtle finishes of the modern and classic buckle. Apple says its Venezia leather sources from Italy.

Apple Watch buyers who go with the leather loop band have four colors choices: black, stone, light brown and bright blue.

Sport band

Apple Watch bands

Apple Watch sport band

Despite its name, the sport band is an out-of-the-box option among all three "collections," not just the Apple Watch Sport.

The band is made of smooth fluoroelastomer, so it's resilient for all activities and fastens with a simple pin-and-tuck closure. Hopefully it's easier to buckle than the Fitbit Charge.

The sport band is available in the most colors on the Sport Watch: white, black, blue, green or pink. Regular Watch and Watch Edition buyers can choose between black or white.

Apple Watch sizes

Apple Watch sizes

Less exciting, but equally important is the choice of among Apple Watch sizes. There are two case heights: 38mm and 42mm.

This opens it up to smaller and larger wrists. The 38mm size is more compact, but having that little bit extra screen space by way of the 42mm option may go a long way.

It should be noted that a few bands appear to be exclusive to certain sizes: the modern buckle is limited to the 38mm option and leather loop the 42mm size, for example.

No right-handed and left-handed Apple Watch decisions need to be made at the Apple Store, thankfully. This smartwatch is ambidextrous because the screen can be flipped.

Apple Watch faces

Apple Watch analog watches

There are nine different default faces from Apple, according to its official website, and likely a lot more to come from third-party developers currently testing out WatchKit.

The great thing about smartwatch faces is that none of them are permanent, something we were fond of when testing out Android Wear smartwatches.

Mickey Mouse is my favorite because I never got a Mickey Mouse watch as a kid. But maybe that'll be reserved for Disneyland visits now that I'm an adult.

Analog watches like Chronograph, Color, Simple and Utility can be swapped in for a more professional look that rivals today's best smartwatch alternatives.

Customizable watch faces

Apple Watch designs

Digital watch faces all have something unique to offer. Motion adds a bit of animal-inspired movement in the background, solar lets you follow the sun's path based on your location and the time of day and astronomy lets you explore space and a rotatable 3D Earth.

Modular, the grid-like ninth watch face, really defines what Apple means when it talks about complications. Most faces can be alerted to include pressing information like stock quotes, weather reports or your next calendar event, according to the company.

Apple Watch wrap-up

Apple Watch

With two sizes for most band designs, six band types, 18 band colors and three cases with two colors each, there's a lot of choice going into this smartwatch purchase.

Apple Watch is launching with a lot of personalization, echoing a time when the Cupertino firm introduced variety among its iMac G3 computers and iPod successors.

Which case and band combination I get has ultimately been determined by the price and availability. For such a new product that's bound to be outdated in a few months to years, I'm leaning toward the cheaper Sport Edition when the Apple Watch release date rolls around.








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