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Fitbit Flyer review

Earlier this year, Fitbit unveiled its very first smartwatch, the Ionic. That was certainly the biggest news to come out of the August announcement, but the company announced another product which flew under the radar. The Fitbit Flyer is the company’s first audio product, and it’s aimed squarely at what are currently the best workout earbuds on the market, the Jaybird X3.

Don’t miss: Fitbit Ionic reviewBest workout earbuds

Are Fitbit’s first workout earbuds worth your money, or should you pass them up for another pair? Let’s find out.

What’s in the box?

Fitbit Flyer review

Upon opening the box, you’ll find the earbuds, a quick start guide, warranty information, a small microUSB charging cable, and a carrying pouch. Fitbit also included a little tray filled with three different sizes of ear tips (small, medium, and large), as well as two sizes of wings and fins (small and large). No foam tips were included in the box.

Build and design

Fitbit Flyer review

The earbuds are comprised mostly of plastic and silicone, but the aerospace-grade aluminum accents make them look much more premium. That’s not to say the plastic makes them feel cheap however— I think it’s pretty clear that Fitbit took the design process very seriously with the Flyer.

I’m partial to the Nightfall Blue color option (the one in this review), though there’s also a Lunar Gray color that features Rose Gold accents. It’s pretty classy.

Fitbit Flyer review

I’ve found the earbuds to be quite comfortable no matter how long I wear them. The stock wings gave me ear fatigue pretty quickly however, so you may consider switching to the fins if you’re planning on wearing them for more than a few minutes. Once you find a comfortable fit, the earbuds will stay secure no matter how much you move your head around.

The Fitbit Flyer remains comfortable no matter how long you wear it. You might want to switch to the ear fins, though.

The cable connecting the earbuds is flat and rubbery, and it’s hardly noticeable on your neck. On the right side of the cable, about two inches below the earbud, is the control module/microphone. This is how you’ll play/pause, skip tracks, increase/decrease volume, and access your voice assistant. The module isn’t too big or heavy, and is easy to use during workouts.

Unfortunately Fitbit didn’t make the earbuds water resistant, though they are sweatproof. There’s no official IP rating, though they feature a hydrophobic nano coating on the inside and out that’s supposedly rain, splash, and sweatproof. I haven’t run into any problems throughout the review period, though it would give me peace of mind if they came with a proper IP rating— especially considering the $ 130 price tag.


Fitbit Flyer review

One of the nicer features on the Fitbit Ionic is the fact that it comes with 2.5 GB of storage for music playback when you’re on the go. The whole reason Fitbit made the Flyer is because it needed an audio product to sell alongside the smartwatch. So, as you’ve probably guessed, you can pair the earbuds with the Ionic.

The Flyer works great paired with the Ionic.

The earbuds come with Bluetooth 4.2, which means it sports a 32-foot range and supports A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, and HFP profiles. They can be paired to up to eight devices, and can be simultaneously connected to two devices. That’s especially handy if you have your Flyer paired to your Ionic and your smartphone. Even if you’re listening to music through your Ionic, the Flyer will relay phone calls (if your is smartphone nearby).

When you receive a phone call, you should have a seamless experience. That’s because there are two MEMS mics on the control module— one that picks up your voice, one that handles wind reduction. I received a call from my wife while I was wearing the earbuds, and she said call quality was crisp and clear. My voice sounded a bit tinny compared to my Pixel 2 XL, but it was still clear.

Fitbit Flyer review

The Fitbit Flyer is compatible with Android, iOS, and Windows smartphones, which means you can summon Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana depending on what type of phone you have. Just long-press the middle button on the control module and your voice assistant will trigger right away.

Throughout my review period, I only heard a handful of stutters when streaming music and podcasts. Not enough to be an annoyance, but still worth pointing out.

Battery life

Fitbit Flyer review

Fitbit says the earbuds are capable of lasting up to six hours on a single charge, and I’d say that’s almost accurate. I’ve been able to achieve a little over five hours with regular use. That’s not the eight hours that the Jaybird X3 offers, but it’s still pretty good.

When you do need to charge them, it will only take an hour or two to charge from empty to full. Fitbit also says you’ll get one hour of playback after a 15-minute charge.

The Flyer charges via microUSB, and there’s a small cable included in the box. Its a very small cable, so be careful you don’t lose it.

Sound quality

Fitbit Flyer review

There’s no way to customize different audio profiles on the Flyer, though Fitbit included a Power Boost mode that amplifies bass and EQ. For the sake of testing however, I am using the Signature sound profile that’s activated by default. The majority of the testing was done on the treadmill at the gym and during runs outside around the neighborhood.


Throughout my testing, I’ve found that lows, no matter what I’m listening to, are just right. I prefer listening to punk/indie music when I’m running, and I’ve had no issues hearing plenty of bass. Sometimes you need that extra push when you’re running, so the Power Boost mode might be your cup of tea if you’re going outside for a run.


Fitbit put a decent emphasis on mids, though they could be louder. They also start to distort a little when the volume is turned up to max. For me this isn’t much of a dealbreaker, and I think they’ll be fine for most people.


Even when I’m listening to the squealing guitars and synth in Mystery Pills by Antarctigo Vespucci, I never noticed any piercing highs. Overall, the highs blend in with the lows and mids just right.

Power Boost

Accessed by simultaneously long-pressing the volume up and down buttons, Power Boost mode was built in partnership with Waves Audio. Waves is known for providing audio tools for records, films, and video games, and this is the first time the company has brought its sound technology to headphones.

The main thing you’ll notice after turning Power Boost on is the amplified bass. In fact, going back to the Signature audio profile after turning Power Boost on is a little jarring. This mode slightly distorts mids and highs, but not so much that I thought the audio quality was bad. It’s just much louder than the Signature profile— so loud that turning the volume up to max while in Power Boost mode will hurt your ears.

Fitbit Flyer review

The Flyer comes with Passive Noise Isolation to help reduce background noise, and I think it does a great job. I was able to almost completely block out a couple people talking in the other room without the need to shut my office door.



Fitbit Flyer review

The Fitbit Flyer is available from Amazon and Fitbit.com for $ 129.95, roughly the same price as Jaybird X3, our favorite pair of workout earbuds on the market. So which should you buy?

With the Flyer, you get good audio quality and a comfortable fit wrapped up in a high-end design. The Power Boost mode is also helpful if you need a little more out of your music.

The Jaybird X3 also provides a good overall audio experience, though it does give you more control over how your music sounds. There’s a dedicated app that lets you choose from different presets and customize the sound to your liking if you have more particular tastes. It also tells you how much battery you have left, which is very helpful. If you like to fine-tune your audio, go with the X3.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Flyer is a great workout companion, but it doesn’t actually track any of your activities like the Jabra Sport Coach, which costs $ 10 less than the Flyer.

Fitbit’s earbuds offer good audio quality, a comfortable fit, and a high-end design. But with other, more proven workout earbuds on the market, the Fitbit Flyer is a tough sell.

With that said, the Flyer is made to work seamlessly with the Fitbit Ionic. So if you’re an early adopter of Fitbit’s first smartwatch, you should probably go with Fitbit’s earbuds. Regadless, with other more proven workout earbuds on the market, the Fitbit Flyer is a tough sell.

Next: Best wireless Bluetooth headphones for running

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Garmin vívoactive 3 and vívomove HR hands on review

IFA 2017 is here and manufacturers have been holding press events for the past several days to show off their latest and greatest gadgets. GPS tech and wearable manufacturer Garmin is among them, taking to the stage a couple of days ago to introduce three new wearable products.

These arrived in the form of the vívoactive 3, its flagship, feature-packed watch that comes with its all-new mobile payments system, the vívomove HR, a stylish, hybrid smartwatch, and the vívo sport, the company’s latest fitness band (read an overview of the three devices here).

I had the opportunity to spend some time with the vívoactive 3 and vívomove HR during Garmin’s press event to learn a little more about them — here’s what you need to know.

vívoactive 3

The vívoactive 3 is a feature-packed sports watch aimed at those looking to lead a healthy lifestyle. It runs on Garmin’s own custom software, though it’s compatible with Android and iOS phones for advanced features like notification syncing (for emails, messages, missed calls etc). The device makes use of stainless steel design, circular watch face, and always-on Garmin Chroma display, said to offer good visibility even in strong outdoor light.

As you might expect, the vívoactive 3 puts a large focus on fitness: it comes with more than 15 sports apps covering a range of activities, with all-new profiles designed for things like yoga and elliptical exercises, and will allow you to download custom exercises through the Garmin IQ Connect platform and create your own. The vívoactive 3 can also keep track of reps and sets and, of course, will survive in both the pool and the shower.

Garmin’s fitness tracking features are helped by its proprietary “Elevate” wristband, which can monitor things like VO2 Max and heart rate variability (HRV). This, according to Garmin, can even assess your stress levels, but it might take a bit of setting up; it generally suggested that my stress levels were low though, while at a busy show like IFA, I can assure you that I was feeling anything but relaxed.

Garmin also included a new navigation control in its watch known as “Side Swipe.” This is employed instead of a dedicated button or dial to make navigating menus a little more intuitive. While it worked well enough at the show, for anybody familiar with other smartwatch products, it’s not a big deal — it literally just means swiping the watch face. I can scarcely believe Garmin trademarked it to be honest.

Garmin also says that the watch is suitable for scrolling with either a finger or a thumb, which strikes me as another minor addition, but maybe some people are particularly precious about that kind of functionality.

As for the battery life, Garmin promises up to seven days when using the device in smartwatch mode, and it’s said to survive up to 13 hours while making use of GPS tracking (the specific battery size hasn’t been discussed). These are impressive numbers as far as wearables are concerned and destroy what Android Wear and Apple Watch devices deliver.

Further, you can customize the vívoactive 3 with thousands of watch faces, widgets and other apps downloadable from Garmin’s dedicated store.

The vívoactive 3 isn’t particularly exciting in the looks department — the gray unit with gray wrist strap that I saw at the event was particularly dull — but the rubberized band was comfortable, as you would hope. It’s also a comparatively thick watch (11.7 mm), especially when compared to non-smart fitness trackers, but not to the point of being a distraction.

See also:
Best smartwatches (August 2017)

Best smartwatches (August 2017)

June 12, 2017

As you can no doubt tell from the pictures, the vívoactive 3 is prone to fingerprint smudges. This kind of thing can happen at an event with fifty or so people playing with a device in the space of half an hour, but smudges were more apparent on this watch than the other Garmin products I played with.

Alongside the vívoactive 3, Garmin has introduced its own mobile payments service Garmen Pay. This is based on startup Fit Pay‘s contactless payments system for wearables, supporting Visa and Mastercard debit cards from a number of major US banks. These cards can be registered with the Garmin Pay wallet to allow contactless payments “pretty much wherever contactless payments are accepted,” says Garmin vice president of worldwide sales Dan Bartel.

Fit Pay aims to deliver a wearable payment solution that can be easily incorporated into existing smart devices. And it makes sense: rather than every company trying to build its own platform (which many OEM’s are already doing), this could save manufacturers a lot of investment time and resources.

As the company behind the failed contactless wrist strap payment Kickstarter, though, Fit Pay still has to really prove itself.

In a short demo at the press area, the payments system looked simple enough; after tapping the vívoactive 3 on a compatible terminal, a press rep entered a private code to process a payment. The rep told me that you won’t have to enter this code again to process other payments within an hour, unless you remove the watch.

Contactless payment systems are well placed on fitness trackers because people generally don’t carry a lot of money with them when they’re working out. How Garmin’s solution will stand up against other mobile payments systems, however, we don’t yet know.

The vívoactive 3 will be available in three colors at launch, though Garmin didn’t say when that would be, and these are: black/stainless, white/stainless and black/slate. The stainless steel watches will have a suggested retail price of $ 299.99, while the slate unit will come in at $ 329.99. Various bands will be available separately too.

If you’re interested, you can pre-order the vívoactive 3 at Best Buy here.

vívomove HR


The vívomove HR is a less feature-heavy product compared to the vívoactive 3, sitting somewhere between a fitness device and a fashion product. It still includes some fitness tracking features, the Elevate wrist heart monitor, smart notifications, and a touchscreen display (housed in the lower half of the screen), but you won’t find Garmin Pay, GPS or a compass on there.

So, it’s a lighter fitness product, but it is still good to go showering and swimming with, and it should best the vívoactive 3 in battery life too, offering up to five days of standby time in the smartwatch mode (with smart features) or two weeks when used like a normal watch.

What it’s lacking in internal features, the vívomove HR makes up for in its outward appearance. This is a good-looking watch, the light gold variant with the brown leather strap I got my hands on at the show looked particularly suave, and it’s one of the few smartwatches that look attractive even when compared to traditional analog watches. While the vívoactive 3 will, by all accounts, yield more interesting usability options when it’s explored more in-depth, it was easier to fall in love with the vívomove HR upon first seeing it on the trade show floor.

The vívomove HR has another exciting facet that the vívoactive 3 lacks (though, admittedly, it’s completely by-design) and that’s in its watch hands. These pointers can temporarily swivel out of position when the digital portion of the screen lights up; it’s a super slick effect, a great amalgamation of old and new tech, that caught a number of peoples’ eyes while the watch was on display.

One problem that I did come across at conference was in waking the digital screen, however. This, I was told, is achieved by double tapping the watch face — but it took lots of random tapping to get the thing to actually wake up (like you can see in the photo above) on each of the three watches I tried. Perhaps this is still in development, or perhaps there’s a trick to it that I didn’t catch, but it’s worth bearing in mind.

The vívomove HR is the product that I was most impressed by at Garmin’s event — and it’s probably one of the more impressive smartwatches I’ve come across to date. It looks cool, it’s comfortable, the operation is clever, its fitness features are robust, and its battery life may blow most of the competition out of the water.

The vívomove HR has a $ 199.99 RRP for the sport version, while the more premium unit with the leather strap comes in at $ 299.99. It will arrive in black, rose gold, black and silver (with brown leather strap) and gold (with brown leather strap) variants. We’ll let you know when as soon as Garmin announces the release date.

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Amazfit PACE review

Gone are the days where you need to choose between wearing a fitness tracker or a smartwatch. While it seems many wearables on the market are made to fit squarely in one category or the other, there are a handful of great devices out there that offer the best of both worlds. The Fitbit Blaze, for instance, is a great fitness tracker for those who need a bigger display, while the Moto 360 Sport is a solid smartwatch with some impressive running features built in.

But what if you’re not keen on spending upwards of $ 200 for one of these devices? Are there any fitness tracker/smartwatch hybrids that don’t break the bank? Enter: the Amazfit PACE.

Back in November 2016, Huami announced that it was bringing its beautiful sub-$ 200 Amazfit PACE smartwatch to the United States. With a built-in GPS, heart rate sensor and smartphone notification support, could this be the fitness tracker/smartwatch hybrid we’ve been waiting for? Find out, in our full Amazfit PACE review.

Review notes: I’ve been using the Amazfit PACE as my main fitness tracker for 11 days. The Huawei Mate 9 has been my smartphone companion of choice for the duration of this review.

Show More

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3 weeks ago


I’m going to come right out and say it – I think the Amazfit PACE is beautiful. It strikes a great balance between sporty and classy that not too many other smartwatches can achieve. That’s mostly thanks to the device’s dark ceramic bezel, which not only looks good, but has proven to be quite durable throughout its testing period.

The watch case also features a small, physical button on the top-right edge, which acts as a home button as well as a way to wake the device. Surprisingly, this small, inconspicuous button is actually one of the watch’s main downfalls. Let me explain.

The touchscreen is disabled until the small physical button is pressed

Although the PACE sports an LCD touchscreen display, the touchscreen part of the screen is disabled until you press the physical button. This is not only inconvenient, but downright annoying at times. When you need to interact with a notification, start a workout, or do anything else on the watch aside from checking the time, you need to remember to press the physical button first. I’ve found this to be particularly inconvenient with notifications. When a text, email or any other type of smartphone alert shows up on the watch, the physical button – which is quite small and difficult to press at times – still needs to be pressed in order to interact with it, even if the display’s backlight is triggered. I’m not sure if I’m just used to the way other smartwatches work, but when I lift my wrist and the backlight turns on, I expect to be able to interact with things right away.

Throughout the PACE’s review period, I have yet to get used to the fact that the touchscreen is disabled by default. Maybe other people will feel differently.

The watch comes with a 1.34-inch transflective color LCD display, with a resolution of 320 x 300. It’s certainly not the most high quality display I’ve ever seen on a smartwatch, but it is very impressive, especially for this price point. It’s visible indoors, even when the backlight is turned off. Plus, this is a transflective display, so the more daylight that hits the screen, the easier it is to read outdoors.

The display is easy to read both indoors and out

On another positive note, the rubber straps that come with the Amazfit PACE are high quality and extremely comfortable. They’re also interchangeable, which means you’ll be able to swap out a rubber strap for just about any standard 22mm watch strap you have lying around.

One of the other notable additions to the Amazfit PACE’s design is its IP67 water and dust resistance rating. This means you’ll be able to take it in a pool, though I’m not sure why you’d want to; the PACE only tracks a handful of workouts, none of which include swim tracking.

See also:

Everything you need to know about IP ratings

2 days ago

Features and performance

Like most GPS-equipped fitness trackers out there, the Amazfit PACE will track your steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, resting and active heart rate, and sleep. In it’s current iteration, the device can only track four different activities: run, walk, run indoor and trail run. Amazfit says more activity profiles will be added to the device soon via a software update, but as of right now, these four are all you get.

As far as step tracking is concerned, the Amazfit PACE is pretty much in line with most of the other fitness trackers we’ve tested in recent months. I took the PACE, Garmin’s vívoactive HR and the Fitbit Charge 2 out on a walk for exactly 500 steps, and all three devices finished within 10 steps of each other.

When you’re out on a run, the watch will display quite a bit of information on the workout screen; you can check your total workout time, distance, pace per mile, heart rate, calories burned, speed, cadence, average moving pace, as well as your GPS route. The order in which all of these metrics are displayed makes a lot of sense, and the workout screens are very easy to navigate when you’re out on a run. Just swipe up to get to the next page of metrics, swipe left to get to music controls, or swipe right to pause or stop your workout.

Distance tracking is pretty much spot on, thanks to the PACE’s built-in GPS

When you’re in trail running mode, the device will not only track the metrics listed above, but also your altitude, elevation gain/loss, speed, vertical speed and average moving speed. And after you finish with a run, the watch will display your distance traveled, calories burned, average pace per mile, best pace per mile, average moving speed, max speed, average cadence, max cadence and heart rate trends.

It’s worth noting that distance tracking is pretty much spot on, thanks to the PACE’s built-in GPS. For outdoor and trail running, you’ll be able to accurately track your distance and running route with ease. This is because, at the bottom of your workout screen, the watch will display a small map of your running route in case you’re wondering what route you took or where you are.

Distance tracking when running indoors is another story, though. On the treadmill at my gym, I ran 5.02 miles in all, though the PACE told me I only went 4.28 miles. Not that this is a huge issue (I had the correct stats on the treadmill, anyway), but it’s still worth addressing. The watch also lets you calibrate your distance after the fact, which is pretty helpful if you’re trying to keep an accurate activity history.

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Fitbit Charge 2 vs Garmin vívosmart HR+

December 14, 2016

I do need to bring something up here, though, specifically in regards to checking your stats during a run. Because the watch’s touchscreen is disabled until you press the physical button on the side, this can get quite annoying when you’re out on a run and simply want to scroll through to see your activity stats. I know I sound like a broken record here, but this feature really does get in the way all too often.

Now let’s talk about the Amazfit PACE’s optical heart rate sensor. It’s accurate when recording resting and active heart rate readings, for the most part, though I have experienced quite a few problems with it recording my peak heart rate numbers about 30bpm too high.

Take a look at the screenshots below, compared to the image attached above of the PACE’s heart rate readings. During this particular workout, I tested the PACE’s heart rate sensor against the Wahoo TICKR X and the Garmin vívoactive HR. As you can see, all three devices recorded most of the highs and lows in the same patterns, though the PACE’s numbers are a bit off. The Amazfit device, in this case, recorded my peak heart rate at 201, while both the TICKR X and vívoactive HR both recorded my max heart rate at 166 or so.

On a more positive note, the watch is quite detailed in the way it presents your heart rate readings. At any point throughout your day, you can swipe over to the heart rate screen and get information on your anaerobic, aerobic, fat burning, non-workout, and sleep heart rate zones. This heart rate section of the watch will also display your maximum and minimum heart rate for the current day, and also your past average heart rate trends.

The Amazfit PACE will also automatically track your sleep every night, like most other wrist-mounted trackers out there. Thankfully there’s no need to press a sleep now button to begin sleep tracking; just fall asleep with the tracker on your wrist, and you’ll be able to check out all the data the watch collected in the morning. On the watch itself, you can check out your deep and light sleep, time awake, total sleep time and what time you fell asleep/woke up.

Also read: The best sleep trackers

All of this sleep data may be helpful if you’re just looking back at your previous night’s sleep or your sleep from a few nights ago, but the lack of detailed graphs of your sleep trends overtime is unfortunate. You can select different entries in your sleep history to try to see how you’ve been improving over time, but the watch won’t display any graphs or tables to help you figure it out. All you really get is a small sleep history screen that shows how much deep/light sleep you’ve had over the past few days.

Speaking of sleep tracking, the PACE also has a silent alarm feature, which I’ve been a huge fan of throughout my time with this device. There’s nothing special about how the silent alarms work compared to other fitness trackers; you set your alarm time, how often you’d like it to go off, and your watch will vibrate when that time rolls around. But what makes this such an enjoyable experience is that the Amazfit PACE has one of the best vibration motors I’ve ever come across in an activity tracker. It’s not too jarring, nor is it too soft. It’s a little thing, really, but it really makes wearing this device day in and day out much more enjoyable.

See also:

Best smartwatches

3 weeks ago

Since this is a smartwatch, after all, you’ll also have the option to receive smartphone notifications on this device. While the implementation of the notifications may be slightly underbaked, the number of notifications you can receive on your device is quite impressive. You can receive virtually any notification you’d like on the PACE, from pretty much any app that’s installed on your phone. Just go into the Notification settings section of the Amazfit Watch app, press the toggle next to the app you’d like to receive notifications from, and that’s it. Easy, right?

Notifications on the watch are kind of a mixed bag, though. Unfortunately this is one of the most underbaked parts of the watch’s software, as I’ve consistently found bugs almost every time I interact with them. While I’ve had no problems receiving notifications from Hangouts, Inbox or Slack, it’s the interaction part that’s buggy. Once you receive a notification, you can swipe right to dismiss it, or swipe left to reply, view the full conversation (only on some apps), or block the app from showing up. Blocking apps works just fine, but tapping the View conversation option causes the launcher to crash, which is never something you want to see. Additionally, as you can see in the first image attached above, the block option has an icon, while the Reply and View conversation options do not, even though they clearly should.

Notifications are one of the most underbaked parts on the watch

One other odd thing – whenever I receive a Slack notification from a coworker, the message arrives in English, but I can also swipe over to see the message in Chinese.

For those of you who like to go running without your smartphone, you’ll be happy to hear the Amazfit PACE comes with 4GB (well, actually closer to 2GB) of on-board storage for loading up music to play when you’re on the go. Just connect your watch to the included charger, plug it into the USB port on your computer, and load up whatever music you’d like. Mac users will need the Android File Transfer program for this to work, just so you know.

I’ve had no problems with music playback so far, and connecting the watch to a pair of Bluetooth earbuds is a breeze. It’s worth noting that the PACE doesn’t offer playlist control (nor does it let you shuffle songs), so you pretty much need to load up your music and listen. I’m sure most runners out there won’t have a problem with this.

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Much like other fitness trackers out there, the PACE also features move reminders. In case you’re unfamiliar with the feature, the watch will remind you to move every so often if it senses you’ve been sitting for too long. It works pretty well most of the time, and is actually quite useful… especially for someone like me who sits at a desk all day. The move reminders (or Stand up reminders as Amazfit calls them) can be a tad buggy at times, though. Even if I’m up and moving around, I’ll get move reminders from the watch every once in awhile.

On the battery front, Amazfit says the PACE will be able to last up to 5 days with regular use or 11 days with basic use (no heart rate monitor/GPS use) on a single charge. I’ve found this to be mostly correct throughout my testing period. With moderate to heavy use, the PACE has no problem lasting at least 4 days on a charge, but you can certainly squeeze more out of it if you’re not regularly using the heart rate monitor or GPS.

When you do have to recharge, just place the watch into the included charging cradle, and make sure the pins on the back side of the device are correctly lined up. The cable that comes with the device is pretty long, too, so you shouldn’t have any problems plugging it into your computer or a nearby USB port.

  Huami Amazfit PACE
Display 1.34-inch always-on transflective color LCD touchscreen
320 x 300ppi
Processor 1.2GHz
Storage 4GB
Battery life Up to 11 days basic use, 5 days regular use
Heart rate monitor Yes, optical
Water resistance Yes, IP67
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0
Notifications Call, text, calendar alerts, and more
Compatibility Android, iOS
Weight 54.5g


The Amazfit PACE is running a basic form of Android, though it’s not running Android Wear, to be clear. All in all, I’m very happy with the way Amazfit developed this interface, though it is a little heavy on the swiping. You can’t take advantage of voice commands here, so you’ll have to rely on swiping – a lot – to move around the UI.

See also: Best Android Wear watches

From the main watch face screen, you can swipe right to access the activities section, where you can then choose to either start a workout or view your recent activity. Swiping left from the main screen will cycle through different activity stats and applications. This is how you access your daily activity, heart rate, music controls, upcoming alarms, weekly weather forecast, compass and stopwatch. Pulling down from the top of the screen will display the date and the current weather conditions in your area. From here, you can swipe left to get to your battery stats, silent mode toggle, and more settings.

The interface is intuitive, though it can be slow at times

All in all, the interface is intuitive, though it can be slow at times. I don’t think it’s a problem with lag, though. It moreso seems like the animations are just slow to load, which makes quickly navigating around the device’s interface seem like a hassle at times.

There are also quite a few watch faces to choose from (13, to be exact), ranging from sporty to classy. I’m partial to the ‘Marathon life’ watch face, which you can see pictured below.

If you’re at all familiar with other wearables on the market, you’d know that many smartwatch makers tend to keep their on-device software on the simple side. Wearable makers tend to offload some of the less-important tasks – like settings menus, alarms, and detailed activity information – onto their smartphone companion apps, since it’s just easier to access these things on a bigger screen.

Unfortunately, this leads me to one of the PACE’s biggest downsides – the watch doesn’t actually have it’s own companion app for activity tracking. This means every workout, heart rate graph, and just about every other activity the device records will have to be viewed on the watch itself. The watch does have support for syncing with Strava, though we obviously would have liked to see it launch with its own companion app for activity tracking.

Also, I’ve had trouble sending my data from the watch to the Strava app, meaning I’ve had to exclusively look at my data on the watch face. I’m sure this will be fixed in a future software update, but it’s still worth bringing up.

The PACE can unfortunately only sync with Strava

While you can only currently view your activity data on the watch itself and in Strava, Amazfit says this will likely change in the future. Unfortunately we have no other details as to when an activity tracking companion app will become available.

Through Strava, you can also send your activity data to Garmin Connect, MyFitnessPal and Google Fit, but this is a pretty cumbersome workaround for something that should be present on the watch by default.

Also read: The best Android fitness apps and workout apps

The Amazfit Watch app (pictured above) is used for syncing and pairing the device with your smartphone, and it’s also the app you’ll use to change watch faces and manage notifications. This app also allows you to pair your account with Strava. It’s by no means an activity tracking app, though.


Should you buy it?

The Amazfit PACE is available for $ 159.99 from the official Amazfit website, though it’s currently selling on Amazon for just under $ 120. So the question is, is this device right for you?

As I’ve alluded to throughout the majority of this review, the Amazfit PACE has a few notable software issues. The level of polish and refinement that I expected to see in this device’s software simply doesn’t match the beautiful hardware. That might be okay for some people, and it’s certainly hard to argue with the sub-$ 200 price point… especially considering all the features that are packed into this device.

But if you’re interested in this device, you should definitely take a look at the competition before making your decision. First of all, since the number of activities the PACE can track is pretty limited at the moment, you might want to pass if you’re not a runner. And if you are a runner, you might want to check out the Moto 360 Sport. It’s available on Amazon for around $ 125, and it’s a truly great smartwatch. Plus, it also has an on-board GPS, heart rate monitor, and is slated to get the big Android Wear 2.0 update sometime soon.

That’s if you need a smartwatch, though. If you’re in need of a powerful fitness tracker with a GPS and heart rate monitor that supports smartphone notifications (and has a powerful companion app), you can’t go wrong with the Garmin vívosmart HR+. This device is available from Garmin’s website for $ 199.99, if you don’t mind paying a little extra.

What I’m trying to say is, there are much more powerful fitness trackers on the market, and there are better smartwatches on the market, too. The PACE is a solid first effort from Amazfit, but for me, the negatives outweigh the positives. The lack of a dedicated companion app and the buggy software outshine the beautiful build quality and awesome battery life. With that said, if those caveats don’t matter much to you, the Amazfit PACE might be a good option.

What do you think of the Amazfit PACE? Be sure to speak up in the comment section below!


Which Fitbit is right for you?

3 weeks ago

Android Authority

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BLU R1 HD review

Florida-based BLU enjoys a popular presence in the affordable Android smartphone market, with a slew of entry-level and mid-range devices on offer, that are great options for those on a budget. What is great about BLU’s latest smartphone, the R1 HD, is that if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can avail special discounts and offers that help make this already affordable smartphone even cheaper.

More BLU reviews:

Affordability without compromising on quality is what BLU promises, but does the company manage to deliver? We find out, in this in-depth BLU R1 HD review!

Buy now from Amazon



We are now seeing an impressive trend where affordable smartphones feature high quality builds, and that is certainly also the case with the BLU R1 HD. The device features a metal frame and a polycarbonate backing, that feels great in the hand. The matte finish of the back cover offers a lot of grip that supersedes the slipperiness of the metal sides, and the slight curve along the sides of the back allow for the phone to sit nicely in the palm of your hand.


Taking a look around the device, the volume rocker is on the right side, with the power button right below it. The buttons come with the same metal finish, and offer a good amount of tactile feedback. The back cover is removable, giving you access to the two microSIM card slots and the dedicated microSD card slot. However, while the back cover is removable, the battery is not. Finally, the headphone jack and the microUSB port are at the top and bottom respectively.


We are definitely seeing more and more affordable smartphones that go above and beyond what their price points would suggest as far as design and build quality are concerned, which is absolutely fantastic, but when you consider how affordable this phone actually is, the BLU R1 HD certainly impresses.



The BLU R1 HD comes with a 5-inch IPS LCD display of 1280 x 720 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 294 ppi, and a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panel helps keeps the display protected, which is always a nice touch.


The resolution may disappoint some, but there is only so much you can expect from a device priced at $ 100. The quality of the display is actually quite good, with content appearing sharp overall, along with good viewing angles and decent color reproduction. You don’t get the punch that you would with the AMOLED screens out there, but this display will certainly get the job done.



Under the hood, the R1 HD comes with a quad-core MediaTek MT6735 processor, clocked at 1.3 GHz, and backed by the Mali-T720 GPU and 1 GB or 2 GB of RAM depending on which version of the device you pick. This review unit comes with 2 GB of RAM, and the overall performance of the phone has been quite good.

There have been no serious issues with day to day performance, and opening, closing, and switching between apps has been fairly smooth. The device also handles gaming quite well, even though it understandably struggles a touch with more graphic-intensive games. Of course, the R1 HD isn’t a performance powerhouse, which is reflected in the benchmark scores, but it isn’t expected to be. For those looking for a decent performer on a budget though, the BLU R1 HD is certainly up to the task.



8 GB or 16 GB are the internal storage options available, which also dictates how much RAM you get with the device. With rather low storage options, especially if you pick the 8 GB iteration, users will certainly appreciate the availability of a dedicated microSD card slot, allowing for expandable storage up to an additional 64 GB.


The device comes with two microSIM card slots, but that is a very market dependent feature, and something that may not be all that useful in the US. This phone is also unlocked, allowing you to pick the GSM network carrier of your choice, and you do get 4G LTE connectivity, with bands 2, 4, 7, and 17, with support for band 12 expected to arrive with a future OTA update.


The R1 HD comes with a single speaker unit on the back, which isn’t a great placement, making it easy to cover up when holding the phone in both the landscape and portrait orientation. The sound quality is pretty good however, with no distortion at the highest volume levels, and good highs and lows. The positioning could have certainly been better, but overall, this isn’t a disappointing speaker by any means.

The device comes with a non-removable 2,500 mAh battery, which may seem small, but does offer good battery life. With average usage, the phone comfortably allows for a full day of use, and even with heavy usage, that involved streaming video over LTE and keeping the screen brightness at maximum, the phone managed to last for 8 hours. There are no quick charging capabilities here, and takes around two hours to get back to a full charge, which isn’t too bad.



The R1 HD comes with an 8 MP rear camera, with a f/2.0 aperture and a 4P lens, along with a 5 MP front-facing unit with a wide angle lens. As is the case with any budget-friendly smartphone camera, these cameras can be hit and miss. The front-facing camera faces issues with overexposure and some noise, and while the wide angle lens allows for you to capture more of the scene, detail is lacking. There is a front-facing flash however, which is useful for any selfie lovers out there.

The story is the same with the rear facing camera as well. You do get good looking shots in daylight and well-light conditions, but the camera does tend to overexpose shots, and noise will start to creep in as the lighting deteriorates. The camera app has a few built-in shooting modes available, including Panorama, but video recording capabilities are limited to Full HD at 30 fps. As is the case with the picture quality, videos tend to look a little grainy as well. Overall, the cameras of the R1 HD will do in a pinch, but are certainly not something to write home about.



On the software side of things, the R1 HD is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, which is great to see, given that some other, more expensive, BLU smartphones released earlier this year were launched with Android 5.1 Lollipop. BLU has also done a good job with keeping the software very close to stock, and there aren’t really a whole lot of extras packed in.



As mentioned, there is an Amazon Prime exclusive version of the device available, with Prime members able to avail discounts and offers when picking up the phone, and later on as well. There is a catch however, with this version coming with lockscreen ads in tow. Essentially every time you press the power button, you will be greeted with a new ad, which you can swipe away to get to your homescreen, and you will even see an ad tacked on at the end of your notifications in the notification shade.

The presence of these ads can be a deal breaker for some, but some users may even appreciate the offers available and the products being displayed. Of course, a standard version, without these ads, is available as well.


Display 5-inch IPS LCD display
1280 x 720 resolution, 294 ppi
Processor 1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6735 processor
Mali-T720 GPU
RAM 1/2 GB
Storage 8/16 GB
expandable via microSD card up to 64 GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.0
FM Radio
microUSB 2.0
Battery 2,500 mAh
Camera 8 MP rear camera, f/2.0 aperture, LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera, wide angle, LED flash
Software Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Dimensions 143 x 70.7 x 8.5 mm
142 grams


Pricing and final thoughts

The BLU R1 HD is currently priced at $ 100 for the 8 GB and 1 GB RAM version, with the 16 GB and 2 GB RAM iteration requiring just an additional $ 10, so the latter is definitely the way to go if you do decide to pick up this phone. Amazon Prime subscribers can available a $ 50 discount, but you will have to deal with the non removable lockscreen ads in this case.


So, there you have it for this in-depth look at the BLU R1 HD! This phone gets a lot right, with a solid design and build quality, decent performance, a clean software package, and an unbeatable price point. The camera experience is a bit of a let down, and the ads, if you go for the Prime version, can get annoying, but at this price, these are understandable compromises to make. If you are looking for a good option on a budget, the BLU R1 HD should definitely be considered.

Buy now from Amazon

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Jaybird Freedom Review!

This article originally appeared on our sister site SoundGuys.com. For the full review & ratings, check out their Jaybird Freedom Review!

After being announced at CES, the Jaybird Freedom wireless headphones are finally here. They have a new design, a new way of charging, and Jaybird even released a new app to go along with them. But are they everything we hoped for?

What’s inside?

Jaybird Freedom[1]

In the box you’ll get a soft carrying pouch, instruction manual, the headphones, 3 sets of wings tips (L, M, S), and 6 pairs of ear tips as well in either silicone or comply memory coming in small, medium, and large. Then you’ll get a short charging cable, 2 wire clips for cable management (super important), and a small clip to secure it to your shirt. Not so important. Finally you’ll get the charging cradle that you’ll need to recharge the headphones.

Build & Design

Jaybird Freedom[3]

Right off the bat you’ll notice that these look pretty different from the originals. The earbuds are way slimmer now and have a rounded off design that looks really sleek. If you’re not familiar with the X2s, the earbuds used to house the battery which made them big and bulky. And since the earbuds are slim now, the battery had to go somewhere. Which means that the control module is now big, bulky, and not too pretty.

When I first saw the new Freedoms I thought ,”Man, that’s bulky”, and now that I have them I can confirm: it’s big. So big that if you don’t use the wire clips, the extra slack in the cable will definitely force them to fall out of your ear while running. These also don’t have a micro-USB input on the headphones themselves. Instead Jaybird opted for a charging cradle that you need to connect to the headphones in order to plug them in. They also can clip to the control module while you’re wearing them for a boost in battery life.

Jaybird Freedom[2]

When you attach the cradle it gets even bulkier, but I still think that it is a good idea. After going for a run I just came back to the car, snapped on the charging cradle, and let them charge back up. Overall, the biggest issue that I had with the Freedoms was the fit. I had a really hard time getting these to stay in my ear and I actually had to rewrite this entire review because when I finally found the right combination of tips and cord length to get them to fit decently, it changed the experience.

Still, no combination helped during running. The bulky control module easily gets pulled out of my ear due to its weight and only the wire clips were able to help after a lot of adjusting. If I need to use two clips for the wire and a third to keep it clipped to my shirt just to go on a quick run, maybe the design needs a little rethinking. On the bright side these do feel pretty tough and don’t seem like they’d snap under stress.


Jaybird Freedom[6]

One aspect of the headphones that were never an issue during testing was Bluetooth strength. Regardless of where my phone was during my runs I experienced no skipping at all. Even around my house the connection was easily reliable up to 30 feet. Fresh out of the box I wasn’t too impressed with sound quality, but the new Jaybird MySound app is pretty handy. Not only does it keep you up-to-date with how much battery is left, but it also lets you fine tune the EQ settings to your liking.

You can also browse through presets and preview how they sound, including ones made by athletes. The presets then get synced to the Freedoms themselves and not to the source device. So if you switch between devices as often as I do, at least you can count on your music to sound the same. Unlike wired headphones, Bluetooth headphone controls aren’t switched or disable depending on your operating system. So whether you use Android or iOS the playback controls work the same. You can pause and play music, skip between tracks.

Battery Life

Jaybird Freedom[4]

The battery life on the Freedoms are really only about 3 to 4 hours, but you could technically use them with the charging to cradle to get up to 8 hours. However, in my usage that was really unrealistic unless I was sitting at a desk. As I alluded to before, I preferred to use the cradle as a portable battery to charge the Freedoms up while I’m not using them instead of a charging case that needs to be attached at all times.

Sound Quality

Jaybird Freedom[5]

When it comes to sound quality, one thing that I noticed that really made a difference was the volume. These get really loud which is great for fitness, but not so much for sound quality. For testing I created a flat EQ profile in the app just so I can see how the headphones sound without any enhancements.


Even with a flat EQ profile the Freedoms still have a good emphasis on bass, which is expected considering they’re intended for fitness. That said, they weren’t overdone and even though they’re stronger than I prefer, they were contained to the low end.


Mids really seemed to take a hit this time around. Vocals and instruments don’t have a huge amount of detail and almost sounds like they have a sheen over them. Especially in songs like “Life is Wonderful” by Jason Mraz where it starts off acoustic and brings in more instruments halfway throuhg.


Again, these get loud. And purely because of that the highs tend to be somewhat piercing unless you dramatically lower the volume. There’s a bell synth in “Ember” by WhoMadeWho that is almost painful at some points.


Overall, the Jaybird Freedom do look way sleeker than the X2s, but they also don’t fit as well. The bigger ‘buds of the X2s wedged themselves in your ears and even though it was bulky and looked weird, they fit great. With the Freedoms you have to rely completely on the little accessories like the cable clips and wing tips. It’s not impossible to find a great fit (and maybe it’s just me) but it’s definitely way harder than something like the UA Headphones Wireless which just stay in your ears no matter what you do.

The sound quality is okay even with the help of the app, but lets be honest — you’re not getting these for the audiophile quality. You’re getting them for fitness. But unless you can get them to fit perfectly they’re not too great in that aspect either. After getting the right fit I really like the Freedom Wireless, but I think I’m just going to wait for the X3s and hope that they’re easier to use.

Buy from Jaybird

This article originally appeared on our sister site SoundGuys.com. For the full review & ratings, check out their Jaybird Freedom Review!

Android Authority

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Vivo X6Plus review

The chances are that you haven’t heard of Vivo, it is a Chinese smartphone manufacturer that makes quite a large range of smartphones, but until now it has focused on the main Asian markets. However, like so many Chinese OEMs, the company is looking to gain more recognition in the west. As part of its push westwards, Vivo recently released two high-end smartphones: the Vivo X6 and Vivo X6Plus. Ash has done a fantastic unboxing/first look/travelogue for the X6 and now it is my turn to take a look at the X6Plus.



Like the Vivo X6, when you take a quick look at the Vivo X6Plus and you will probably think it looks much like another well-known phone, one which bears a fruity motif. That said, the device does look good, it seems well-made and thanks to the metal frame it has a premium feel to it. The buttons are responsive yet firm, however it is worth mentioning that the capacitive keys on the front aren’t back lit.

The device is quite big, due to its 5.7 inch display, however if you are used to handling large screen phones then it won’t feel out of place. For some context the Vivo X6Plus is narrower than the Huawei Mate 8 (which has a 6 inch display) and narrower than the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge (AKA Note 4 Edge), however it is wider than the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

Going around the phone, the volume rocker and power button are on the right, while the dual-SIM tray is on the left. At the top is the 3.5mm headphone jack and on the bottom is the micro-USB port and single speaker. On the back is the rear facing camera along with its flash LED, plus the finger print reader. It is the two bands that run across the back, near the top and bottom, that give the Vivo X6Plus a certain iPhone-esque look.



Face the Vivo X6 and you will be looking right into a 5.7-inch 1080p Super AMOLED panel. Sure, it’s lacking that QHD resolution, but I must say this display is very good. It looks beautiful and has great viewing angles. I really have nothing to complain about here.

moto x vs nexus 4 aa display colorsSee also: AMOLED vs LCD – What is the difference?129

Hardware and performance


As well as the crisp Full HD AMOLED display the Vivo X6Plus also boasts 4GB of RAM, a finger print reader and quick charging. The only slight let down is the choice of processor. The X6Plus uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615. The 615 is an octa-core processor with 8 Cortex-A53 cores, with four cores clocked at 1.2GHz and four cores clocked at 1.7GHz. Accompanying the CPU is the Adreno 405 GPU.

In terms of every day use these specs are adequate and most users won’t find themselves wishing for more CPU power, and because of the 4GB of RAM even some power users will find the X6Plus more than sufficient. However if you play a lot of 3D games, use CPU intensive apps or visit a lot of complex websites then the Snapdragon 615 will be under powered for you.

The use of a Cortex-A53 octa-core SoC is also reflected in the benchmarks. The Vivo X6Plus scored 780 on Geekbench’s single-core test and 3143 for the multi-core test. For some context, those scores are lower than the octa-core Cortex-A53 Kirin 935 found in the Huawei Mate S, lower than the octa-core Cortex-A53 MediaTek Helio X10 found in the Redmi Note 2 and lower than the quad-core 32-bit Snapdragon 801. If you want to see more benchmark scores for some of 2015’s leading processors then check out my SoC showdown: Snapdragon 810 vs Exynos 7420 vs MediaTek Helio X10 vs Kirin 935.


I ran my custom written Terrain 4 benchmark and the Vivo X6Plus scored 8.96 frames per second and managed to display a total of 2225 frames during the test run. By comparison the Vivo X6 (with its octa-core Cortex-A53 MediaTek MT6752 and ARM Mali-T760 GPU) managed 10.07 fps and 2355 total frames. A faster, next generation phone like the Huawei Mate 8 manages 20.72 fps and 3348 total frames at the same Full HD resolution.

The fingerprint reader on the X6Plus is first class. It is fast, accurate and is certainly comparable with the lightning fast and reliable fingerprint scanner on the Huawei Mate 8. Like the Mate 8, you can wake and unlock your phone just by putting your finger on the reader.

The X6Plus has a 3000 mAh battery which delivers a great battery experience. Although it has a 5.7 inch 1080p display, the processor is quite conservative in its power usage, the result is that you will get all-day battery life, easily. Unfortunately Funtouch OS doesn’t include a battery usage page of any kind. So instead I did some battery tests. First I ran Goat Simulator to test the battery life while playing 3D games. According to my calculations you will be able to play 3D games for over 4.5 hours on the Vivo X6Plus. That is quite an impressive number as some phones fail to give you a lesser screen-on time without doing any 3D (i.e. GPU) work. Turning to simpler tasks like watching YouTube over Wi-Fi or web browsing, I found that you will get at least 15 hours of both from this device. What that translates to is in fact a two day battery life (of course depending on your usage). So a big thumbs up for Vivo for the battery life of the X6Plus.



When it comes to the fast charging the Vivo X6Plus supports what Vivo calls “dual-engine quick charging.” The charger is rated at 5V/2A and 9V/2A. That means at 9V it can charge the phone at 18 watts. To fully charge the 3000 mAh battery takes two hours, which isn’t that quick, however to get to 50% only takes 23 minutes, which is quite impressive. If you want to charge the battery to 80% then that takes 55 minutes. To go from 80% to 100% takes over an hour. If you are interested to find out why smartphones charge quickly to 50% or 80%, but can take over half of the charge cycle to add the last 20% then I recommend that you read my test: Qualcomm Quick Charge vs Oppo VOOC vs MediaTek PumpExpress+ vs Motorola TurboPower vs the others.



On the software side, we have Vivo’s Funtouch OS, which although it is based on Android 5.0.2, is really heavily skinned. As with many of the Android variants from Chinese manufacturers, there is no app drawer which means you are left to organize everything into folders on the home screens. Unfortunately Google’s services like Google Play, YouTube and Gmail don’t come pre-installed. I was able to install Amazon’s Appstore without any problem and that got me access to a lot of apps. I then discovered that you can actually install Google Play from the Vivo App Store. That gave me access to a bunch more app and services, however I often came across errors about apps not being compatible with the current device, sadly even Chrome wouldn’t install because Google Play says it isn’t compatible.


When you get over the non-standard Android  look-and-feel, learn to speak Chinese for the apps that don’t work in English, and ignore the iOS aesthetic, then you will find that Vivo did manage to add in some cool functionality. You can save screen shots with voice recordings; use smart motion actions (gestures) like draw ‘M’ for music or cover the phone with your hand to mute it when it is ringing; or shrink the screen or keyboard for one handed use. There are also quite a few options for the dual-SIM functions including setting a different ringtone to each SIM and setting which SIM is the default.



The camera app that comes with the Vivo X6Plus is excellent. As well as offering a range of automatic modes including Night mode and Child portrait mode, there is also a comprehensive manual mode (which Vivo calls Professional mode). You can change the white balance, ISO, and shutter speed, but most importantly you can do manual focusing. The camera is quite quick and there is a burst mode which allows you to take consecutive pictures. According to my crude timing you can take about 10 shots a second. The only limitation is that it stops after 20 shots, so that it can save the images.

As for the camera itself, I am undecided. The 13MP resolution is good, the noise levels aren’t bad for a mobile phone and the touch to set the exposure functionality works well. However I found that the colors in the photos are lacking in vibrancy. I say I am undecided in that I am prepared to give the camera the benefit of the doubt because it has been very cloudy and dull here while I have been taking my test shots and it could be the lack of clear sunlight that has dulled the images, however maybe I am just being too kind.

Anyway, here are some samples photos so that you can judge for yourself:

Polaroid cameraSee also: 15 best camera apps for Android89

Just as I was preparing to publish this review, the sun came out, so I went out and took a few more sample photos. Here is an additional gallery of sample shots:


DIsplay 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display, 1080p
Full HD resolution
Processor 1.6 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615
Adreno 405 GPU
Storage 64 GB
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, microUSB 2.0
SIM cards Dual-SIM: 1 x micro SIM, 1 x nano SIM
Networks 2G GSM 900 / 1800
3G HSDPA: 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100, TD-SCDMA 1880 / 2010
4G LTE: 1(2100), 3(1800), 38(2600), 39(1900), 40(2300), 41(2500)
Cameras 13 MP rear camera, 8 MP front-facing camera
Battery 3000 mAh
Software Funtouch OS, based on Android 5.0.2 Lollipop
Dimensions 158.4 x 80 x 6.9 mm, 171 g


Wrapping up

The Vivo X6Plus is certainly an interesting device. The large 5.7 inch Super AMOLED display is very cool, but the overall skew towards mimicking Apple is a big negative and leaves me with a desire for some originality. Having said that if you are able to look past the design aspects then features like the 4GB of RAM and the fingerprint reader are solid positives for this device, the only thing I would want to change on the hardware side is the processor, something better than the Snapdragon 615 would seem appropriate for this device. As for the software, well, for Asia it is probably perfect, however those in the West will likely struggle with it.

The Vivo X6Plus will initially be available in Asia for a price that should be around $ 550, however that pricing hasn’t yet been confirmed.

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Gear S2 follow up review

Smartwatches aren’t a new concept but, similar to tablets, they experienced a period of growth before the market stalled as other technology endeavours – Virtual Reality and Drones come to mind – came to the forefront. For wearable OEMs, building an Android-compatible smartwatch that is capable of achieving the same level of success as the Apple Watch has proved to be somewhat of a challenge. Thankfully, Samsung may have finally stumbled upon a recipe for success.

The company’s first Gear smartwatch ran on a customised version of the full Android OS, but since then, we’ve seen the Korean OEM take a different approach to wearables through its own Tizen OS. Built from the remains of Nokia and Intel’s failed MeeGo OS, Tizen is made by Samsung and Intel and over the past few generations of the Gear smartwatch range, we’ve seen the platform evolve considerably. Now, in the Samsung Gear S2, we have a flagship wearable that showcases just why Samsung opted to use Tizen instead of Google’s Android Wear OS.

samsung gear s2 review aa (14 of 24)

After holding off on my purchase since it launched last October, I finally succumbed and replaced my Moto 360 2nd Gen with the Gear S2 at CES earlier this month. Below you’ll find my follow up review to Josh’s initial review of the Gear S2, which you can read and watch here.


When designing wearables, companies seem to take one of two approaches: aim for the sporty look that is unmistakably a smartwatch or aim to blend in with the luxury watch segment.


Some aim to straddle both approaches and with the Gear S2, Samsung has done just this; for those wanting all the rugged features without trying to blend in, the Gear S2 is exactly this, complete with its silicon band. For those who want a luxury smartwatch, the Gear S2 Classic has a leather strap for a traditional quartz look with the addition of some very smart features.

The original version is the model I’ve been using and although the Gear S2 Classic was my original choice, the sportier look of this version actually appeals more. One of the biggest benefits of the silicon band is that it barely shows any use with age, whereas leather has a habit of looking worn with minimal usage. The leather straps on both my Moto 360 and my Huawei Watch showed wear  after a little passing of time, with the Moto 360 being the worst offender. It’s nice not to have to worry about this.

samsung gear s2 unboxing aa (13 of 20)

The silicon bands use a proprietary connector to connect to the stainless steel body and this means you can’t really change the design of the watch. The lack of traditional connectors means Samsung has been able to remove the lugs that are present in a more conventional design, which some people like but I find disconcerting.

The main body of the Gear S2 is made from stainless steel with a Home and Back button on the side, which let you interact with the OS in many different ways and a heart-rate sensor on the back. The key feature that sets the Gear S2 above many competitors is the unique rotating bezel around the display, which rotates with a reassuring click and is used to interact and navigate throughout the smartwatch.


The Gear S2 sports a 1.2-inch Super AMOLED display with 360×360 resolution that offers 302 pixels per inch density. It’s an excellent display, is vibrant and easy to read and even in direct sunlight, it still remains usable. A particularly nice feature is that while the display doesn’t support auto-brightness, you have the option to set a minimum brightness level and the display brightness will automatically increase to a higher level depending on the amount of ambient light.

Overall, the Gear S2 certainly isn’t perfect – there are plenty of people that will find the inability to connect to traditional watch straps quite frustrating – and the buttons do take a little getting used to, but the rotating bezel is a fantastic idea and truly sets the Gear S2 apart from other smartwatches.

Samsung-Gear-S2-Hands-On-AA-(18-of-50)Hands on: Samsung Gear S2 vs Gear S2 Classic36

The smartwatch feels pretty nice on the wrist, has a noticeable, but manageable, amount of weight and fits in with almost everything you’re wearing. It manages to be unassuming yet functional and compared to some very odd choices on previous Gear smartwatches, the latest from Samsung finally gets it right.


samsung gear s2 review aa (7 of 9)

A question many people have asked me is whether the Gear S2 has a GPS antenna and the answer is somewhat complicated, as it depends on which version of the smartwatch you have. The Gear S2 is available in Wi-Fi and 3G variants and if you opt for the latter, it’ll come with an e-SIM and speaker, GPS and a larger battery (300 mAh vs 250 mAh).

The lack of GPS may be considered a downside by fitness fanatics, but the Gear S2 somewhat makes up for it as you’re able to add songs to the 4GB internal storage and play them directly to your Bluetooth headset. This allows you to leave the tethered phone at home (unless you need GPS-mapping) and Wi-Fi support means you can continue to use the Gear S2 as a standalone device.

samsung gear s2 review aa (4 of 9)

One of the biggest improvements with the Gear S2 over past Samsung smartwatches is that it is now compatible with any Android smartphone running Android 4.4 or later, and will soon be able to connect to the iPhone as well. When used with non-Samsung devices, you are required to install a number of Samsung specific applications to get everything to work but the experience is almost identical to when paired with a Galaxy smartphone.

Like other wearables, the Gear S2 does have a fitness-focus of sorts, with S-Health proving quite the capable fitness coach. This begins from the home screen where a widget tells you different metrics (example, how much water or caffeine you’ve consumed) and your activity levels.

samsung gear s2 unboxing aa (15 of 20) Samsung Gear S2 unboxing and first impressions50

When you’re working out, S-Health is able to record your heart rate and display it in a rather cool graph and of course, all the data is synchronised right back to your smartphone as well. The Gear S2 smartly measures your activity levels and gives you helpful prompts to get moving when you’ve been idle too long; as someone who often spends long periods at a computer, the prompts to move – which are usually around an hour after you’ve been idle – act as a rather useful reminder to take a break.


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Under the hood, the Gear S2 is powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor (of unspecified variety) and 512MB of RAM. Those specs may look somewhat perplexing on paper but are in line with the current generation of wearables, and it’s more than enough to keep the experience running along nice and smoothly.

Previous Samsung Gear smartwatches have displayed a certain degree of lag with use, but despite adding music to the storage, apps to the smartwatch and having lots of unread notifications, the Gear S2 is seemingly infallible. The ability to marry the hardware and the software means Samsung has been able to deliver a smooth, carefully thought-out user experience that doesn’t require the latest hardware. As a result, Samsung achieved a level of optimisation – akin to Apple – that other Android Wear OEMs can only hope for.


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Powering the entire Gear S2 experience is the Tizen OS and while it does have some negatives, I personally believe it’s definitely a good thing, for the simple reason that it provides a welcome difference in an otherwise somewhat-stale market.

While Samsung is seemingly committed to Android on its smartphones, its televisions and even its fridges, the company seems to be keeping a cautious distance to Android Wear. A particular reason is that while its been able to customise Android on all of the above, the Android Wear guidelines result in a mostly homogenous experience across all devices.

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In comparison, Tizen provides Samsung the flexibility and control that is sorely missing from Android Wear and the Gear S2 is justification for Samsung’s decision to use Tizen. There’s a lot to like about this experience (and some less than pleasing elements) but Tizen has allowed Samsung to deliver a unique smartwatch experience and in turn, Samsung has shown that having control over both the hardware and the software can yield great benefits.

The rotating bezel forms a fundamental part of the experience and allows you to navigate through the various menus and screens. The software feels a lot more intuitive and easy-to-use than other options and the back and home buttons feel like natural elements once you get used to them.

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While Android Wear solely relies on voice input, Tizen adds a T9 keyboard for the times when voice dictation isn’t the most ideal option. Typing on a small screen is certainly not comfortable, but having the ability to choose the most appropriate input for your circumstances is a welcome choice to have.

The bezel allows you to swipe between screens and options but you’ll still swipe up to dismiss notifications and tap the screen to select particular options. Then there’s the back and home buttons that allow you to return to the previous screen, go the home screen or open the apps drawer and finally you can also swipe down to access a quick settings menu. Despite all the various inputs, Samsung has somehow managed to make them all work together to provide a unique user experience that feels completely natural.

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One of my favourite parts of the Gear S2 is how it handles notifications; when you’re on the home screen, rotating to the left brings up all your unread notifications with each on its own screen. Tapping into it, you can scroll through the entire notification using the bezel and the circular display makes for easy viewing. I’ve read a relatively long email on the Gear S2 with no problems and then even sent a short reply – which is hidden behind the menu on the right – using the T9 keyboard. Granted, it was a 5-word reply!

It’s not all positive however but the negatives are very much determined by what parts of the smartwatch experience are most important to you. For instance, the Gear S2 comes with support from barely any third-party applications; if you’re a fitness fanatic, apps like RunKeeper aren’t supported. There’s no Google Maps support either and although Samsung has made its own Maps for Gear app, navigation on the Gear S2 is still a moot point. If you rely on Google for reminders and contextual notifications, you won’t get them on the Gear S2 and apps with a large userbase like Evernote and RunKeeper are also completely missing.

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Widgets are also pretty limited with most displaying information from Samsung’s own apps and the lack of third party applications isn’t likely to change anytime soon. After all, developers can choose to develop for Android Wear or Tizen, and they’ll obviously pick the former, thanks to a larger number of devices and potential customers.

The apps that are present on the Gear S2, like Yelp and Uber, show just how clever the rotating bezel can be, but for me personally, I use my smartwatch for notifications, fitness tracking and as a watch. I don’t need a ton of third-party apps and widgets, which will eventually and inevitably lead to performance lag and poor battery life. Instead, the battery life alone is one reason I’m more than happy to accept the limited Tizen experience.

Battery Life

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The Gear S2 is powered by a 250 mAh battery (or 300mAh if you buy the 3G variant) which may not seem particularly large but is more than enough to deliver excellent battery life. There’s no doubt that battery life is every wearable’s kryptonite, but the Gear S2 breaks the mould of current generation wearables.

Most OEMs quote the maximum battery life a smartwatch can attain and most fail to deliver on their remarks but the Gear S2 is a complete surprise in this department. The Apple Watch is quoted as all-day battery life but is actually only capable of 18 hours so you have to charge it every night. Similarly, most Android Wear watches can last into a second day with minimal usage but will run empty in the middle of the day so you’ll have to charge it every night.

Samsung’s past Gear smartwatches have also needed a charge most nights but the Gear S2 doesn’t. In fact, it’s the first fully-functional smartwatch I’ve used that can easily last several days; to provide some context, this excludes fitness-dedicated trackers and refers solely to full smartwatches. I will say that I’ve not spent extensive time with the Pebble range – including the Pebble Time Round which Josh highly recommends – and it’s worth keeping this in mind as they are quoted as offering excellent battery life.

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During my time with the Gear S2, I’ve found that if you keep Wi-Fi switched off when it’s not being used, reduce screen brightness to between 2 and 4 and use the Gear S2 solely for fitness tracking and notifications, the battery can easily last 2 full days and, depending on usage, even last a full third. The longest I’ve gone without charging it is 3 days, 4 hours and 41 minutes.

When the Gear S2 does run low on battery, the included magnetic charging dock lets you charge it to full in one hour and if you need a quick top up, it can add around 15% in about 10 minutes. While you may wish to charge the Gear S2 every night, especially if you’re using it quite heavily, you can get along pretty comfortably if you do forget to charge it.


Gear S2 – the verdict

The Gear S2 costs $ 299 for the original version we’re using here, with another $ 50-60 for the cellular version, or $ 349 for the Gear S2 Classic. At this price, it’s equal to the current crop of Android Wear smartwatches and definitely offers a rival experience.

huawei watch review aa (17 of 33)Now Read: Best Android Wear watches57

Like smartphones, certain features on a smartwatch will appeal to particular people and for me, the battery life on the Gear S2 alone makes it worth its price tag. Yes, the limitations are quite high, but I’m more than happy to take the rotating bezel and excellent battery life, instead of third party apps and a stale experience.

Over the past two years, I’ve been able to experience almost all the smartwatches that have been offered to the market and the Gear S2 is the first that I’ve actually found useful. For me personally, the homogenisation of Android Wear worked initially but now there’s very little to separate the Huawei Watch from the Moto 360 2nd Gen and the Asus Zenwatch 2 apart from the hardware. No matter which one you choose however, you can expect to charge it pretty much every day.

Let’s hope that Google loosens the reigns of Android Wear just enough to allow other OEMs to deliver truly unique experiences like the Gear S2.

With the Gear S2, the rotating bezel alone is unique enough to keep this wearable on my wrist and the battery life is an added benefit. In an industry full of similar devices, the Gear S2 remains unassuming, but makes just enough of a splash to capture your attention.Let’s hope that Google loosens the reigns of Android Wear just enough to allow other OEMs to deliver truly unique experiences like the Gear S2

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BLU Vivo XL review

BLU, the Florida-based device manufacturer, boasts a robust smartphone portfolio with a common aspect all these phones share being their budget-friendly nature. Continuing to add to their lineup, BLU unveiled two more affordable smartphones last month at CES 2016, with the cheaper of the already low-cost phones being the BLU Vivo XL. Of course, very affordable devices has been the point of focus for a lot of Android OEMs over the past year, so does BLU manage to stand out with their latest offering? We find out, in this comprehensive BLU Vivo XL review!

Buy now from Best Buy


BLU Vivo XL-6

The Vivo XL is certainly one of BLU’s flashier options to date, with a patterned finish on the removable back cover, with gold being the color version of this particular review unit. Whether you like the look depends entirely on your personal opinion, and there is another touch more subtle color option available as well, but it has to be said that the glossy plastic backing and matte finish edges allow for an excellent feel in the hand. However, the plastic rear cover does seem to be prone to scratches, so you may have to depend on a protective case to keep the device in a pristine condition. Luckily, the Vivo XL does come with a case in the box.

BLU Vivo XL-5

Taking a look around the device, the power button and volume rocker are on the right side, and all the buttons offer a reasonable amount of tactile feedback. Capacitive navigation keys are found below the display up front, but in a rather strange move BLU switched the positions of the back and the Recent Apps keys. This might take some getting used to depending on what device you’re coming from. There is also a multi-colored LED at the top left above the display, and the headphone jack and USB-Type C port are found up top and at the bottom respectively.

BLU Vivo XL-9

BLU has also done a great job with keeping the bezels around the display and the top portion and bottom chin quite thin, making for a more manageable handling experience than its 5.5-inch display would suggest. Build quality hasn’t always been particularly good when it comes to devices that fall in the sub-$ 150 category, but that is also something that is slowly changing, especially with the Vivo XL. Despite its plastic construction, the device certainly doesn’t feel cheap, and the solid construction allows for a great feel while holding the phone.


BLU Vivo XL-10

The Vivo XL comes with a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 267ppi. The pixel count may not be the highest out there, and while a higher display resolution would have been nice, 720p does make sense at this price point – the main advantages of the display are clearly shown off in the battery life department. The display experience is actually also really good as well, with the AMOLED panel allowing for high contrast and punchy, saturated colors. Overall, the display of the Vivo XL is certainly one of the best we’ve seen in this price range, despite its lower resolution.

Performance and hardware

BLU Vivo XL-2

Under the hood, the Vivo XL comes with an octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor, clocked at 1.3GHz and backed by the Mali-T720 GPU and 2GB of RAM. The performance of the Vivo XL has been good for the most part, with the device handling tasks with ease the majority of the time. However, there were some instances where the phone would generally feel sluggish, particularly when opening or switching between applications via the Recent Apps screen.

As far as gaming is concerned, the device is able to handle casual games with no trouble, but you will see some frame drops with more graphically-intensive games. That said, the Vivo XL is still a decent option for mobile gamers on a tight budget.

BLU Vivo XL-11

16 gigabytes is the only in-built storage option available with the Vivo XL, but you do get expandable storage via microSD card by up to 64GB to alleviate any concerns. The device also comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, as well as dual-SIM capabilities. You also get full 4G LTE support on the T-Mobile network, and nearly full support on AT&T. We were able to test this review unit on T-Mobile’s extended range LTE network (band 12) and experienced excellent connectivity. If you are on AT&T however, you may be missing out on LTE coverage in some rural areas, with the device lacking band 5 support.

huawei mate 8 review aa (18 of 34)See also: Best dual-SIM Android phones (January 2016)61

BLU Vivo XL-8

The single rear speaker of the device offers a decent audio experience, but a bump in volume and a reduction in the distortion would have certainly been appreciated. That said, it is still about average for the price, and will certainly get the job done in most situations. BLU made the switch to USB Type-C with the Vivo XL, which is a very welcome, but slightly inconvenient move. You will now have to remember to carry around the charger if you need to top up the battery on the go, but the adoption of the latest standard is certainly good to see, especially with a budget smartphone.

The good news is that having to carry around the charger may not be required at all, with the 3,150mAh unit of Vivo XL offering excellent battery life, aided by the lower resolution display and power-efficient processing package. On average, the device would comfortably last a full day of use, if not more, with around 5.5 hours of screen-on time, and that can also be pushed to up to 6 hours with slightly lighter usage. Of course, if battery life does prove to be a concern, the battery is removable, and you always have the option of carrying around a spare.

blu-life-one-x-vs-moto-g (1)See also: Best cheap Android phones (January 2016)328


BLU Vivo XL-14

The BLU Vivo XL comes with a 13MP rear camera with phase detection auto focus and an LED flash, along with a front-facing 5MP unit. The camera performs just about as expected from a device that falls in the price range, and does quite well in ideal lighting conditions, resulting in images that are very sharp and with a lot of detail, as well as with a respectable amount of dynamic range. However, with noticeable aliasing in some images, occasional color reproduction errors, and poor low light capabilities, this camera certainly won’t outperform those found on more expensive smartphones.

As far as the camera app is concerned, the interface is quite simplistic, with ease of use being the focus here. There is a Professional Mode available though, that allows for more granular control over aspects like ISO and shutter speed. There are also a slew of other modes and features built in, but taking pictures in the normal Auto Mode is what works more than well enough in most instances.


BLU Vivo XL-13

On the software side of things, the BLU Vivo XL is running Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box, with a custom skin on top. The software experience BLU offers with their smartphones has been quite fragmented across the board, but in the case of the Vivo XL, a much improved and more polished iteration is to be found. Of course, staple Android features like an app drawer and lock screen notifications are missing, but the overall experience still feels much better than what is seen with some other devices BLU’s portfolio.

In other changes from stock Android, the Quick Toggles in the notification dropdown have also been completely done away with, in favor of an Apple-esque Control Center. Many of the system UI elements are also strong deviations from stock Android, which may be disappointing for some enthusiasts. There are a few third-party apps pre-installed as well, but all of these can easily be uninstalled.

As far as software updates go, BLU has been attempting to do a better job in offering timely updates for their smartphones, but we’ll have to wait and see if and when an official update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow will be made available for the Vivo XL. That said, if running the latest versions of Android is important to you, BLU smartphones may not be the way to go anyway.


Display 5.5-inch AMOLED display with 1280 x 720 resolution
267 ppi
Processor 1.3GHz octa-core Mediatek MT6753
GPU Mali-T720
Storage 16GB, microSD expansion up to 64 GB
Camera 13MP rear camera
5MP front camera
Connectivity Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, GPS, Bluetooth v4.0, Hotspot, Type C-USB, FM Radio, VoLTE
Battery 3,150mAh, non-removable
Software Android 5.1 Lollipop
Dimensions 155.2 x 76.6 x 7.5mm
154 grams
Colors Solid Gold, Chrome Silver, Midnight Blue, Rose Gold


Pricing and final thoughts

The BLU Vivo XL will be available for $ 149 from Best Buy, with the color options included being Solid Gold or Midnight Blue. If you have made up your mind about picking up this device, you may want to do so before January 31st, with BLU running a three day sale that brings the price of the device down to just $ 99.

BLU Vivo XL-1

So there you have it for this in-depth look at the BLU Vivo XL! The Vivo XL may have its issues low-end processing package, and mediocre camera. The device does also get a lot right though, with AMOLED technology more than making up for the low resolution, its excellent battery life, and the fact that users will have access to the 4G LTE networks in the US, which are all great reasons to pick up this budget-friendly phone. As mentioned, you also get to take advantage of a sale following its launch, so if you have decided to to buy this phone, now would be the best time to do so. What are your thoughts? Is the Vivo XL worth the money? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Android 5.1 Lollipop Review: Improvements and Changes

The latest update to Android Lollipop is here! Android 5.1 Lollipop brings along some improvements and changes. Thanks for subscribing! Android 5.1 Nexus factory images and tutorial: http://qbkin…
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Dell Venue 8 7000 Android Tablet Review

The Bottom Line

  • Fantastic design and build quality
  • Good media consumption features
  • Solid performance
  • Impressive battery life
  • Challenging handling experience
  • Underwhelming camera
  • Old software version


While the Dell Venue 8 7000 is not without its flaws, the world’s thinnest tablet brings a lot to the table, with a fantastic price point to boot.

Current trends in the mobile industry show that tablet sales are seeing a slowdown in growth, but that doesn’t mean that there is any reduction in the intensity of the competition in this space, giving rise to some unlikely challengers, such as Dell. Dell isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think about Android tablets, but that may soon change with the company’s latest product.

Introduced at CES 2015 during the Intel Developer Forum, this tablet certainly fits the bill of a fantastic Android tablet, at least from the outside and on paper, even if the name is somewhat uninspiring. Will it manage to hold its own in the uber competitive tablet arena? We find that out, and more, in this in-depth review of the Dell Venue 8 7000!



As a whole, Android tablets have almost always been aesthetically underwhelming, even if a few OEMs have managed to mix things up from time to time. The appearance of the Venue 8 7000 is a good indication though that Dell is going all out in attempting to change that notion, and definitely succeeds in visually differentiating its tablet from the rest. This tablet is truly stunning to look at and hold. Its industrial design is comprised mostly of precision-machined aluminum, with hard edges and corners. It looks and feels fantastic, save for the glass section at the bottom on the back, which proves to be a terrible fingerprint magnet.


The primary design feature present here is the nearly edge-to-edge display, with the screen running up to just 6 mm from the top and side edges. Along with the fact that this is also the thinnest tablet in the world, measuring in at just 6.1 mm thick, the Venue 8 7000 looks almost surreal, almost like a render of a concept device that we wished would be real. Except in this case, it is. Surprisingly, its extra thin build doesn’t take away from its sturdiness as you might expect, feeling very solid in the hand, without being too heavy to negatively impact extended periods of use.


However, all of those staggeringly small numbers for bezels and thickness mean the larger components have to fit somewhere. In the case of the Venue 8 7000, the stereo speakers, 8 MP rear camera, 2 MP front camera, and likely the antennas, have all been crammed into the bottom bezel, that can be best described as a chin. This adds to its unique design, and while we don’t hate how it looks, it does pose some ergonomic challenges.


This chin does come with some added utility, like a place to actually hold the tablet, since the other edges are so close to the screen. At the same time, it gets in the way, and often makes me question how to hold the tablet. Portrait is the only orientation that feels natural, both because the chin is at home at the bottom, and because the navigation buttons don’t always follow the orientation of the tablet. Also, unless you hold the tablet from the narrow top edge, it’s virtually impossible to not cover up one of the cameras or depth sensors. In many ways, it’s almost like the tablet doesn’t want to be held in any orientation other than portrait.


Adding to that, the power button and volume rocker are positioned along the top half of the left edge, which is the opposite of most devices, and will take some getting used to, and while the buttons are metal, they’re only slightly raised, and offer very little in the way of travel and tactility.

Everything said and done, the design of the Venue 8 7000 is stunning, even if the ergonomics simply don’t work out most of the time.



The impressive nature of this tablet continues with regards to the display. The 8.4-inch OLED screen features an impressive resolution of 2560 x 1600, resulting in a relatively high pixel density of 359 ppi.

The blacks are deep, colors have a distinct pop without being oversaturated, and the brightness range is quite good. That said, outdoor visibility is a common problem among OLED displays, and could definitely be improved on this tablet, as could the viewing angles. For gaming and viewing multimedia though, there is no doubt that this is one of the best displays around.



Unlike most Android tablets, the Dell Venue 8 7000 relies on the Intel Atom Z3580 chipset, which is a combination of a quad-core 2.3 GHz CPU and the PowerVR G6430 GPU. As far as the performance goes, the Venue 8 7000 has very little trouble holding its own.


Through most menial tasks, like scrolling through lists and swiping between homescreens, we noticed no serious signs of lag or stutters. It wasn’t too hard to find some performance quirks and reproduce them though, seemingly at will, especially when pressing the Recent Apps button, and changing the orientation. Still, the overall performance is pretty much on par with all the competition out there, and it handles gaming very well, which is great since this tablet is basically the perfect size for some casual gaming.



The rest of the internals on the Venue 8 7000 are pretty standard fare, with the device packing 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. It does have a slot for a microSD card, capable of expanding the storage by an additional 512 GB. To clarify though, a 512 GB microSD card doesn’t exist yet, and regular SD cards in the half-TB flavor go for upwards of $ 1,000, so this is mostly future-proofing more than anything. Connectivity options are par for the course as well, but doesn’t include NFC, which a bit of a let down.


There are some mixed feelings when it comes to the speakers. It was surprising how loud and full the sound coming from them actually was, and they do sound pretty good, mostly thanks to the built-in equalizer app, MaxxAudio by Waves, which comes with four presets – Movie, Music, Voice, and Gaming. The difference between MaxxAudio being on and off is night and day, both with and without headphones. However, despite being front-facing, if you use the tablet in landscape, all your audio is coming from just one side of the tablet, drawing away from an immersive effect. In portrait, this isn’t much of an issue, with all the sound coming from the bottom, which you may be used to, depending on what smartphone you use.


One of the most impressive aspects of this tablet is with regards to its battery life. Only after three days and 12 hours of use did the tablet reach 28 percent of remaining battery. When the screen is off, it barely sips at the battery, dropping between just two and four percent each day. If you jack the screen brightness up in use, you’re going to see that awesome stamina take a hit though. Dell claims 10 hours of use, and that’s definitely possible, as long as you manage the screen brightness well.



The camera on the Venue 8 7000 is admittedly a bit strange. The setup around back is a primary 8 MP camera, with two 720p cameras which work as depth sensors, not totally unlike HTC’s DuoCamera. This is what Dell calls Intel RealSense 3D Technology. Simply point the camera at an object in the Depth Snapshot shooting mode, hold it steady, and snap a photo. If you open this photo in Dell’s Gallery app, you can adjust the focal point, the amount of defocusing, and more. Further, you can estimate distances and measure items within the photo using the captured depth information.


This RealSense technology works pretty well, or at least, as good or better than most other faux-defocusing methods. It’s not without its issues though. For starters, it doesn’t work in low light, and secondly, the images take an incredibly long time to process once you open them in the gallery. Lastly, snapping photos is extremely awkward with this tablet, not only because it is a tablet, but because all the cameras are positioned around the only place you really have to hold the tablet with, the chin. It’s easier to accidentally take a photo than it is to take one on purpose, and even Dell’s Depth Snapshot instructions look awkward and show the user holding the tablet by the screen.

The front-facing camera isn’t any less awkward to use either. All of the cameras are in strange positions, making it quite difficult to not cover up. To top it all off, the image quality itself isn’t much to get excited about. Dell is so close to a solid execution, but the unwieldy nature of capturing photos with the Venue 8 7000 makes us wonder how much better this technology would be if it were on a smartphone.



One of the most upsetting aspects of the Venue 8 7000 is the software, but not because it’s a poor implementation. This tablet ships with Android 4.4.4 KitKat in a very near stock form, and while that would normally be a good thing, it’s been over three months since Android 5.0 Lollipop officially arrived and even longer since it was announced, and definitely what you’d expect a new device to be running.


If you’ve never used Lollipop before, this tablet’s software will feel natural and quite polished. That said, if you’re coming from a phone or tablet which currently runs on Google’s latest firmware, even after just a few days with Lollipop, the software on the Venue 8 7000 will feel borderline archaic. The separated panels for notifications and quick settings, Recent Apps instead of the Overview menu, and five permanent home screens, are stark contrasts and reminders of just how much the Lollipop update has improved the usability and appearance of Android. I constantly found myself long-pressing on the home screen to add widgets, but they still reside in their old home on this tablet, the app drawer, in the tab to the right of the applications.


Outside that, there isn’t much to say about the software. A few applications, like Kobo Books, McAfee Security, CamCard, and File Commander come pre-installed, and Dell’s additions are pretty minimal. It has its own camera app, the My Dell app, some live wallpapers, a custom Gallery app for editing photos with depth information, and Dell Cast. Dell has replaced the screen casting feature of Android with its own proprietary software, which requires Dell-specific hardware, which is unfortunate for purists, but is otherwise a slight modification that won’t affect most users.

Overall, the software is pretty solid, even if it does feel and look a little old. Fortunately, a Lollipop update is in the works and is expected to land sometime in the near future. It’s also nice to see the app situation specific to Android tablets constantly improving, even if some of Google’s own apps still have their own quirks when it comes to larger displays.


Dell Venue 8 7000 specs

CPU/GPU Quad-core 2.3 GHz Intel Atom Z3580
PowerVR G6430 GPU
Display 8.4 inches OLED (2560 x 1600)
359 ppi
Memory 16 GB storage, expandable up to 512 GB
Battery non-removable
Camera 8MP rear cam with Intel RealSense 3D technology
2MP front cam
Connectivity WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS / GLONASS, Bluetooth® v 4.0 (LE)
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
OS Android 4.4.4 Kitkat
Dimensions and Weight 215.9 x 124.2 x 6.1 mm
305 grams


Pricing and Final Thoughts

The Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet sells for just $ 399, which is a fair and comparable price to much of the competition. Many potential buyers will be torn between Dell’s 8.4-inch slab and the 8.9-inch Nexus 9, which goes for the same price with many similar specs and features. With expandable storage, a killer edge-to-edge display, and a really sweet industrial design, you might be getting more bang for your buck with the Venue 8 7000.


So there you have it – the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet! Our biggest cause for concern with this tablet is its ergonomics. In just about anything but portrait, it doesn’t feel quite right, and accidental screen taps or button presses are inevitable. Those issues are aren’t enough to out shine all the high points of this tablet though. It’s definitely one of the best looking Android tablets to hit the market in a very long time, the speakers and display make it ideal for multimedia consumption, and it also offers up some pretty impressive battery performance. While not perfect, the Dell Venue 8 7000 is a surprisingly great tablet and is well worth the cash.

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