The tbreak awards are coming

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Articles, Features, Industry

It goes without saying that we get to play with a lot of cool gadgets and components, and, every year technology keep getting faster, smarter and better. 2012 was no different.

With the arrival of Microsoft’s Windows 8, we saw touch technology move from smartphone and tablets to laptops and desktops with incredibly flexible designs. On the mobile side, Nokia showed that it still has what it takes to design killer hardware while the iPhone continued to push design boundaries and Samsung continued to excel with their Galaxy line of Smartphones in every way. With cameras, we saw the introduction of full frame sensors at affordable prices while speakers produced music that amazed us.

Things weren’t much different on the components side either. We saw Intel launch their new generation of Ivy Bridge Processors while AMD showed us levels of performances with integrated graphics that were only present on dedicated GPUs. NVIDIA also continued to push technology with their Kepler series of GPUs providing a faster yet more power-friendly solution.

All in all, 2012 was an insanely fun year for technology enthusiasts. Now that it has ended, it was time for the tbreak gang to get together and decide which products and events made a dent in the tech universe. With the sheer number of outstanding products, it was very hard for us to pick the crème de la crème and after hours of bicker fighting and name calling, we finally settled on what became the nominations for the tbreak awards for 2012.

The full list of nominees and categories can be viewed on our website however, this year we decided to go big and hold a private event honoring the companies that made these amazing products for us to use. With a little help from our friends at Jumbo, on the 8th of January, the Who’s Who of the tech industry will descend on Emirates Towers. And we will have the incredibly hard task of choosing the best from 2012.

UPDATE: Winners announced!

VW Touareg 2013 Hybrid Review

December 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, Car Tech, Reviews, Spotlight

We generally receive cars from manufacturers for the weekend to test drive and form our opinions and that’s exactly how it started with the VW Touareg Hybrid that I’m looking at today. I went to their offices and collected the car on Wednesday evening with the intention of returning it on Sunday morning. However, I had to contact VW on Sunday for an extension and I had a very valid reason.

In the 2-4 days that a car is with us, we tend to drive it a reasonable amount- using it as our primary car to get a good feel on the performance, drive and technology. In that time we rack up 400+ kms or so and the full tank of gas that we receive the car in is usually depleted. The Touareg Hybrid was also driver close to 400 kms but the fuel gauge was only showing the tank at a little under half. I needed to drive it a lot more to see how much mileage I get out of a full tank of gas and it was going to be a long journey. Welcome to the world of Hybrids.

Looks-wise, the 2013 Touareg doesn’t deviate a lot from it’s predecessors however, there are some nice additions. Starting off, LED daytime lights surround the headlights and tail lights which not only enable the car to be seen better during daytime but also add a touch of style. I received the Touareg in Night blue and beige interior with wood trimmings and it looked fantastic. When I was walking back from a meeting, a colleague of mine mistook the Touareg for a Porsche Cayenne- I’m not sure if VW will take that as a compliment or an insult.

When testing the tech side of things, the model I received was similar to the one from last year- except for the Hybrid part on which I’ll touch upon in just a moment. On the center console you have a large touch screen that acts as your primary method of interacting with the car. Actual buttons below the screen allow you to switch between Media, Radio, Telephone, Setup and Climate. Unfortunately navigation was not an option on my model although I have seen it on older Touaregs so it’s probably just a missing option.


I had no issues connecting my iPhone 5 to the Touareg with device pairing up with ease. Besides setting it up as a phone, the Touareg also automatically set it up as an iPod with music streaming capabilities using Bluetooth. You have the option of using an SD card filled with media or connecting a device through AUX in case your media player doesn’t support an A2DP Bluetooth profile. The audio system on the review car was premium and sounded quite good although the automatic volume control would unexpectedly raise the volume for no reason.

On the steering wheel, you have the usual bunch of buttons for controlling volume levels and skipping tracks or radio stations as well as showing up what is displays on the screen on the dashboard such as the distance driven, fuel range, telephone calls etc.

Coming to the safety aspect, the Touareg was the first car I had tested with a 360 view camera and that continues to be present on this year’s model. Like most cars, lines get superimposed on the screen when you’re backing up to show you the space and direction. The car also has a lot of sensors for detecting things like lane changes and blind spots through visual, audible as well as steering vibrations. One one particular occasion, the car detected that I was accelerating towards a stationary car in front and immediately started sounding an alarm and showing a rather large red icon on the screen. Systems like these are excellent and should hopefully help reducing the number of accidents.

The most interesting aspect of this Touareg is the Hybrid aspect. The 3.0-liter V6 is helped by a 47-hp electric motor for a combined power output of 380-hp. When the accelerator is released, the Touareg’s engine shuts-off and a special clutch disengages the transmission from the engine, allowing it to “coast” forward without electric or combustion power to aid in fuel savings. There is an E-Mode button on the Touareg which lets you drive the SUV up to 50km/h on pure electric power, however this isn’t meant to be a primary mode of driving as you can only drive 3kms before the battery runs out.

There is no need to “charge” the Touareg as the regenerative braking helps recharge the battery while the automatic start-stop system that we’ve seen Audi’s conserves fuel when the vehicle is stopped at a light or in traffic. Using all that the Touareg had to offer, I was at nearly 400kms before the tank reached half way. I pushed and revved the car considerably when testing the second half of the tank and still managed to get over 350kms giving me a total of 750kms on a full tank.

A nice touch is that the screen on the center provides you some good information on the hybrid aspect of the car. Through different colors it shows whether the car is running on fuel or battery or even both. Even the recharging of the battery is shown with a different color that usually comes on when you brake.

The ride on the Touareg is quite comfortable and noise levels low. There are some nice touches such as the full panoramic roof and the adjustable lighting on the leg area that add to the luxury element. Although I must say that the Touareg looks a bit larger than it is and fitting in more than five can prove to be a bit tight. Even the boot is not necessarily as spacious as some of the other sedans we’ve tested- such as the VW Passat.

Unfortunately, VW is not planning on bringing the Touareg Hybrid to the region in 2013 which is a bit of a shame as it’s a pretty awesome car with excellent mileage and impressive technology. So if you’re looking to get one, you choice is to either import one or wait for 2014 which might be the year we see this Hybrid on the streets of UAE.

Huawei Ascend D1 XL Review

December 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, Reviews, Smartphones, Spotlight

Although technology evolves on a continuous basis, the price we pay for the latest/greatest continues to stay. For example, the iPhone 5 costs the same as the iPhone 4S did a year ago. You’re still paying the same amount for cutting-edge technology as you did five years back. However, Huawei is looking into changing that equation. With their new Ascend D1 XL smartphone, they are offering the latest in technology at a launch price that is almost 40% lower than competing handsets at launch.

Packaging

Packaged in what has become an industry standard sized box, the Ascend D1 Quad XL has a picture of the unit on the front with specs on the back. Inside the white box, you find a white USB charger, a USB cable and a white headset. Also included is a quick start guide along with warranty information.

Build Quality and Design

The Huawei Ascend measures 129 x 64 x 10.9 mm and weighs 150 g which is definitely not as thin or light as some of the competing high-end Android phones. In fact, I found the Ascend D1 a bit on the chunky side- maybe a trend that is coming back to phones of late. That being said, the narrower width of the Ascend D1 made it the only Android “Superphone” that I could use with one hand.

The build quality of the phone is strictly ok. The removable back cover’s finish is a bit on the rough side which I didn’t like much. There is also a bit of creaking when you grasp the phone a little tightly. Under the cover, you have a slot or a regular sized sim card as well as a MicroSD card which is good. The battery, although impressivly powerful is non removable.

Button placement on the Huwawei is nicely thought of. On the top you have a 3.5mm jack as well as the lock button which, considering the form factor, is not hard to reach. The right side sports volume buttons while the left has the micro USB connector placed towards the top making the phone usable while charging.

An 8MP camera sits on the back and is cerntered along with dual LED flashlights while the front sports a 1.3 megapixel camera above the 4.5″ touchscreen. Below the screen you have three buttons- back, home and menu which I think is an ideal configuration for Android phones. I don’t know why Google likes to place the soft button for menu on the top of the screen which, in many instances, makes it hard to reach- especially on larger sized phones. With the menu button at the bottom, navigating the device becomes a lot more easier. For those wondering, holding down the home button brings up the app switcher.

Specs

Huawei is certainly aiming high with the Ascend D1 Quad XL with specs that will match almost any high-end smartphone available today. It comes equipped with the Huawei K3V2 chipset featuring a quad core 1.4CHz processor and 1GB or RAM. For storage you have 8GB on board along with a microSD card slot to expand at your wishes. Huawei also has you covered with radios as you get HSDPA, 21 Mbps and WiFi 802.11b/g/n with Bluetooth 4.0 and AGPS.

Screen and Apps

I hear many complain about the screen size of the phone being either too big or too small. I think many of those will be satisfied by the 4.5″ screen that Huawei has chosen for the Ascend D1 XL. It’s big enough to watch videos and surf the web comfortably while being usable with one hand. The IPS panel with a 1280×720 resolution results in a ppi or around 326 making everything appear very crisp and readable on the screen. The screen did appear a bit harder to read in the UAE sun but cranking up the brightness helped.

Coming to the UI, the Ascend D1 XL can either use it’s own custom UI with 3D effects that I grew tired of pretty fast or use the stock Android UI which I think is great for a user that prefers a pure Google experience. Where I do think the phone fails is providing the latest Google has to offer. The Ascend D1 XL comes out of the box with Android 4.0 which is over a year old. There is no reason for Huawei to not have bundled Jelly Bean 4.1 on this device which helps tremendously with the smoothness of the UI- something quite visible on the D1. The phone has the specs but really needs the software optimizations that Jelly Bean provides for a lag-free experience.

Camera

The 8 MP camera on the Ascend D1 is just about average. It takes decent shots with plenty of light but not the best when used indoors or without much light. The following shot is taken in my office which has good lighting but as you can see, the picture is still a tad bit grainy.

Battery Life

One of the best things about the Huawei D1 is the battery life. Powered with an extremely juicy 2600mAh battery, the Ascend D1 provides you with superb battery life. Almost all of the Android based handsets I’ve tested generally run out of juice by the end of the day for me but the Huawei kept on chugging along until the later half of the following day. About the only phone that I’ve reviewed with a better battery is the Samsung Galaxy note II but considering the size of that device, I think that Huawei has done an excellent job with the battery on the D1 Quad. while it does add some chunkiness to the design, it’s a tradeoff anyone wanting a larger battery would happily accept.

Conclusion

The Ascend D1 does quite a few things right but at the same time falters in areas it shouldn’t have. For example, not providing Jelly Bean 4.1 out of the box at the end of 2012 is not really excusable. On the other hand the screen and one-handed usage along with the superb battery life make it one of the better Android based Smartphones, especially at a price of AED xxx at which you don’t necessarily get the latest greatest.

Acer Aspire S7 Ultrabook Review

December 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, Laptops, Reviews, Spotlight, Ultrabooks

The first time I saw the Acer Aspire S7 was at an Intel’s IDF event earlier this year and my MacBook Air was suddenly not looking as good as this ultra-slim laptop with faster specs and a gorgeous full-HD touchscreen display. It was definitely one of the most attention-grabbing laptops on a wall full of Windows 8 laptops and I knew that if I was to purchase a Windows 8 laptop, it would be the Acer Aspire S7. Score.

Packaged in a nice big white box, the Acer Aspire S7 come neatly bundled with quite a few accessories such as a carrying case, dongles for Ethernet and DSUB, a wireless mouse and the usual suspects like the power charger and quick-start guides. The following unboxing video we did for the Aspire S7 shows you all of these things.

[youtube video=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyGMh17aEiw&w=600]

Design

The Acer S7 is stunning as far as design is concerned. Made up of Aluminum and Gorilla Glass, the S7 is very well constructed with no parts that flex. Measuring just 12.73″ x 8.79″ x 0.47″ and weighing 1.29kg, it also incredibly thin and light. This makes the Aspire S7 thinner and lighter than the 13” MacBook Air that is used as an industry standard which weighs 1.35kg and is 0.68″ in height.

On the left you have the power connector along with a 3.5mm jack that does audio output as well as input, a mini HDMI port and a power switch while the right side features two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card reader. Acer does well to bundle dongles for Ethernet and DSUB as they are still required at times and putting them on the S7 would have unnecessarily increased the height.

About the only complain I have with the design on the Aspire S7 is that it is not too easy to lift the lid and requires using two hands most of the time. Acer has added a nudged piece of metal to lift the screen but unless you have sharp, strong nails, you’ll be hard pressed to easily open the device.

Specifications

You would think that an Ultrabook with the size of the Aspire S7 would be a bit low on specs but that is not the case with the Aspire S7. It comes with the latest Intel Core i5 or i7 processors and a super speedy SSD drives. The only area I felt a bit concerned about was RAM which is neither upgradeable when ordering, nor user replaceable and 4GB barely cuts it nowadays. However, after using the unit for a few days, and this is probably due to the very fast SSD, I was never left waiting much for apps to load. Though that’s not to say that an 8GB option wouldn’t be welcomed.

The following table outlines the specs of my unit.

Dimensions 12.73″ x 8.79″ x 0.47″
Weight 1.29kg
CPU Intel Core i7-3517U 1.9GHz
GPU Intel HD 4000
RAM 4GB
Storage 256GB SSD
Screen Size 13.3″ IPS Panel with capitative touch
Screen Resolution 1920×1080
Wireless 802.11b/g/n + Bluetooth 4.0
Ports USB 3.0 x 2, Micro HDMI, Audio, SD Card
Webcam 1.3 MP
Battery 4-cell lithium polymer battery (4680mAh)
Claimed Battery Life 6 hours

 

Benchmark and Performance

Acer Aspire S7 Lenovo Yoga
3DMark 11 (P) 608
PC Mark 7 5130 4413
Geekbench 6089 4990
Performance Test 1606 1554
WinRAR 2431 3244

As you can see from the benchmarks table above, the Acer Aspire S7 performs quite well besting the recently reviewed Lenovo Yoga in all tests.

Screen and Audio

The Aspire S7 has a gorgeous 13.3” capacitive touch screen with a full-HD 1920×1080 resolution and is based on an IPS panel. To say that its impressive is putting it mildly- it’s absolutely stunning with viewing angles that are better than almost all laptops that I’ve tested of late. The only other laptop screens that look this great are the ones on the Retina MacBook Pro and the ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A- neither of which has touch capabilities. The screen on the Aspire S7 can also fold down 180 degrees and while I’m not sure how useful that is, you do have the capability. The touch functionality on the touch screen works beautifully and I was able to easily scroll with inertia and move around the Modern UI of windows 8

Keyboard and Trackpad

My primary laptop is the MacBook Pro and in the years that I’ve been testing Windows based laptops, I have yet to find out where the trackpad works as well as the Mac. Sadly, the Acer Aspire S7 doesn’t change that and if I was to point out the weakest link in this ultrabook- the trackpad would be it. Acer uses an Elan trackpad which, from what I’ve heard, is supposed to be a good option but it is connected internally using a PS2 port instead of USB which could be the issue. Scrolling sucks and many a times, the trackpad would have a hard time distinguishing between one or two fingers and would thus act incorrectly.

The keyboard, while not the best that I’ve used, is one that you could get used to. There is no row for F keys which I find a bit strange on a 13” laptop- there certainly is plenty of room above the keyboard that Acer could have used to accommodate an extra row. What this means is that you don’t have options for media playback on the keyboard- such as skipping or pausing tracks. What is good is that the laptop has a backlight and a pretty good looking one. Here is what it looks like

Heat and Noise levels

I was expecting the Acer Aspire S7 to get pretty hot considering the high-powered CPU present onboard, however Acer certainly surprised me with the temperature levels that touched a bit on the warmer side but nothing like my MacBook Pro. From what I know the area around the keyboard works like a giant heatsink- much like the MacBooks do.

While the heat aspect is good, the fan spoils things. Acer uses a high pitched fan that turns on pretty much any time you stress the machine and it gets annoying real fast. So any time you’re trying to play a game or even use Photoshop, expect the fan to kick in. Even installing apps made the fan turn on most of the time. Luckiliy watching hi-def videos doesn’t cause this issue as that would have been really annoying. Still, at a time when we’re turning to our noise-less tablets for many things that we did on a lapotop, noise levels like the ones found on the Aspire S7 don’t help in making us stick to our laptops.

Battery Life

Acer states a battery life of six hours for the Aspire S7 which, like most laptop manufacturers, is a bit on the higher side. I’ve been using the laptop for about two weeks now and generally speaking, I get around four-five hours out of it which is not necessarily great but not too bad either. My activities mostly include web browsing with some music playing in the background and a little bit of image editing. Depending on how you use your computer, your mileage will vary.

Conclusion

I remember reading Acer’s CEO showing some disappointment when Microsoft reveal their Surface tablet. However, if Acer is capable of building a laptop as beautiful and powerful as the Aspire S7 then there really isn’t much for them to worry about. Aside from the trackpad and the fan noise, the Aspire S7 is the finest Windows 8 based laptop that I have used. The screen is just phenomenally good while the Core i7 and the dual SSDs in RAID0 configuration make the S7 insanely fast to work on.

Priced at roughly AED 6500, the Aspire S7 should be on the top of your list if you are looking into getting a Windows Phone 8 based laptop. It is also available in 11” form factor and looks equally impressive.

Apple adds movies to UAE iTunes store. Forgets to add Arabic.

December 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Apple, Articles, Desktop Apps, News

Apple has been working over-time in the Middle East to not only launch the iPhone 5 but also make the iTunes music store available in the region with a healthy selection of Arabic music. Following music Apple has now also made movies available in the UAE iTunes store.

This might sound great but there are two issues that need to be sorted with movies. First, all the movies are only available in Standard Definition and not High Definition. Second and more importantly, most movies are not available in Arabic language or have subtitles in Arabic. This does not make much sense.

We checked out Disney’s latest cartoon Brave that is available on the iTunes music store in the UAE but without Arabic language or sub-titles. That same cartoon is officially available in BluRay and DVD across most video stores in Arabic language. So it’s not a matter of the content not being available in Arabic but most likely a licensing issue that desperately needs addressing.

Google vs Microsoft – fight!

December 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, Blogs, Google, Industry, Microsoft

Recently Google announced that it will no longer be supporting Activesync on Gmail accounts. Activesync is a Microsoft technology that lets you sync your contacts, calendar and email wirelessly to your mobile devices in one easy step setup. I’ve been using it for quite a few years and it has worked well for me from device to device. However Google needs to pay Microsoft for using Activesync and for a long time this made sense. But with the popularity of GMail and Android devices, Google now feels that it’s time to switch ActiveSync off and use their preferred method of syncing through CalDev and CardDev with IMAP- all of which are open Internet standards.

So what exactly is the issue you ask? Well, Microsoft has intentionally left out support for CalDav and CardDav in their new Windows Phone 8 and has instead decided to support ActiveSync exclusively. What this would result in is that users of GMail will not be able to sync their contacts and calendars wirelessly on Windows Phone 8 devices. They will either have tto use a PC to act as an intermediatery syncing device (and have their contacts and calenders synced when connected to that computer) or switch to another email account like outlook.com for wireless synchroniation of their calender and address book. Considering the popularity of GMail, I doubt many people will be switching their email accounts to an alternative solution.

I think this is a smart and calculated “business” decision by Google. They are not stopping paid Google Apps accounts from using ActiveSync which is what most businesses use but only the free @gmail.com accounts used mainly for personal emails. So paying business users continue to get ActiveSync support and can continue using it on whatever device they are carrying while users of gmail.com will think twice before purchasing a Windows Phone 8 device that will not easily sync their address book and calender. With Windows Phone 8 at 5% or less market share and Android and around 70%, this works out well for Google.

What Microsoft needs to do is wisen-up and add support for CalDav and CardDav in Windows Phone through an update. Afterall, every other phone such as the iPhone, all Android and BlackBerry devices support this open protocol so there is no reason for Windows Phone 8 to not support it- especially since it’s in it’s infancy stages and wants to grow.

Jacky’s Electronics appointed as Apple Authorised Reseller

December 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Apple, Articles, Industry, News

Jacky’s Electronics, the UAE’s leading multi-brand consumer electronics retailer, today announced that it has become an Apple Authorised Reseller offering the complete range of Mac, iPad and iPod products along with a wide range of accessories in store.

“We are excited to become an Apple Authorised Reseller,” said Ashish Panjabi, COO of Jacky’s Electronics. “Jacky’s mission is to provide the best products, service and support in the market, so we’re delighted that Apple’s innovative products and solutions are now officially available in our stores. Our trained staff will also be on hand to provide expert advice as well as after-sales support to our customers.”

At Jacky’s, customers will be able to learn all about the latest products from Apple including the iPad mini, a completely new iPad design that is 23 per cent thinner and 53 per cent lighter than the third generation iPad and features a stunning 7.9-inch Multi-Touch display you can hold in one hand.

The new fourth generation iPad with an amazing 9.7-inch Retina display and A6X chip that delivers up to twice the CPU performance and up to twice the graphics performance of the A5X chip. The all-new iMac featuring a stunning design, brilliant display with reduced reflection, faster processors and an innovative new storage option called Fusion Drive and the new 13-inch MacBook Pro featuring a stunning Retina display and all flash storage in a new compact design.

Guide to purchasing the iPhone 5 from du and Etisalat

December 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Apple, Articles, Features, Smartphones

After weeks of speculation, Apple’s iPhone 5 finally officially landed in the UAE today and is available for purchase and we have reviewed it right here.. While both Etisalat and du made the iPhone 5 available for pre-ordering through their websites since the 9th of December, Etisalat rolled out the highly anticipated device through a midnight launch at many of it’s business centers across the UAE. If you are interested in getting the iPhone 5, we hope the following guide is useful in selecting which carrier and plan to go with.

First up, you need to decide if you want to simply purchase the iPhone 5 outright without any contracts or take up a package. The following table compares prices of the iPhone 5 between Etisalat and du for purchasing the unit without any contracts.

iPhone 5 Etisalat du
16GB AED 2749 AED 2749
32GB AED 3149 AED 3199
64GB AED 3549 AED 3599

 

The price is similar across both telcos however, Etisalat has slightly better pricing on the 32GB and 64GB units saving you 50 Dirhams. However, du provides you with 100MB of data per month for the first six months completely free and if you have an existing plan with them for which you pay AED 250 Dirhams or more, you get 1GB data per month free for a year.

Etisalat on the other hand offers you a plan for AED 225 per month that includes 8GB of data per month, 200 national SMS per month and 800 minutes of local or 200 minutes of international calls per month. This plan is contract-free meaning you are not restricted to stay on this plan however, it expires after a year of your purchase meaning you will have to get another standard plan with them after 12 month. Alternatively you can purchase a 1GB data from Etisalat at AED 99 per month which is offered for any phone.

If you prefer paying for your iPhone 5 in monthly installments instead of a full upfront payment, then you have the following offers available from du and Etisalat

Carrier Upfront Costs Monthly Payment Monthly Plan details Validity
Etisalat 16GB Free
32GB: AED 399
64GB AED 799
AED 499 4GB Data
200 SMS
800 local or 200 Int’l minutes
12 months
Etisalat 16GB Free
32GB: Free
64GB Free
AED 249
AED 279
AED 299
2GB Data 18 months
du 16GB Free
32GB: Free
64GB Free
AED 270
AED 305
AED 335
1GB Data 12 months
du 16GB Free
32GB: Free
64GB Free
AED 155
AED 175
AED 200
1GB Data 24 months

 

So which plan should you go for? We think that you should purchase the iPhone outright and go with Etisalat’s package of AED 225 per month which is a steal since you’re getting 8GB of data along with lots of local or international minutes and 200 local SMS.

However, if you don’t want to pay that much outright then both du and Etisalat offer attractive payment plans. We wouldn’t chose the AED 499 package from Etisalat as du has better packages through their Elite Super plans that start at AED 100 per month. We also suggest getting a 12 month or 18 month contract instead of a 24 month contract as data prices will continue to go down and you don’t want to be locked in a contract for two years.

Apple iPhone 5 Review

December 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Apple, Articles, Reviews, Spotlight

Like it or not, you cannot argue that the iPhone is the device that proved to be the catalyst for the mass adoption of a full slate design phone. Apple continues to update the iPhone every year to bring it on par or exceed with the specs of the industry and every other year with a new design that pretty much sets the industry standard for other phones. This year’s model, the iPhone 5, continues in that path with a new design that, while being instantly recognizable as an iPhone, continues to astonish. But is design and specs the area that the iPhone really needs more work on? We find that out in our iPhone 5 review.

Packaging

Packaged in the very familiar box, the iPhone 5 comes with the usual USB cable, charging plug and a pair of earphones. Apple has replaced the earphones with their new earpods that supposedly fit better in most ears and up the quality from the previous generation. Also included in the sim tray removal pin for the nano SIM- more on that later. In short, the packaging on the iPhone 5 is pretty similar to previous models with everything laid out neatly and easy to access.

Build Quality and Design

Although many people might not necessarily like Apple’s fenced ecosystem, few can argue the quality and design of their products. With the latest revision, the iPhone 5 manages to get thinner and lighter and yet provide you with a bigger screen size. Measuring 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm and weighing just 112g, the iPhone 5 is unmistakably similar to older iPhones and yet very new and extremely light in your hands. You might think it looks a bit too narrow for a phone with a 4.0” screen, especially if you’ve used some of the larger sized Android phones, but Apple has stuck to the same width to make sure that the iPhone continues to be very usable with a single hand- something you just can’t do with wider screens and second and more important.

The back of the iPhone 5 has been changed from a full glass back from the previous generation to a two tone design with small pieces of glass on top and bottom but an aluminium finish in the middle which is also used around the device. I received the black version of the phone which is not exactly black but has a slight shade of blue that looks incredibly slick and sexy. Hands down, it’s the most gorgeous phone that I’ve held to date.

On the left you have volume keys as well as the mute switch while the top continues to hold the lock button. The speakers are still positioned at the bottom which isn’t necessarily the best place for them as you can easily cover them with your hands when holding the unit sideways. Also found at the bottom is the 3.5mm audio jack and the new Lightning connector that has replaced the aging 30-pin iPod connector we’ve had for many many years.

Specs and Performance

The iPhone 5 continues to use a dual core processor although the Apple A6 that powers it seems to offer a significant performance boost over the older iPhone 4S and many Android devices. The triple core PowerVR SGX 543MP3 certainly helps push the graphics capabilities of the iPhone 5 and it is believed than Apple has doubled the RAM from 512MB to 1GB to make the device feel more snappy. the following table compares the iPhone 5 to the Nokia Lumia 920 as well as the Samsung Galaxy S III-  probably the two closest competitors for the iPhone 5.

Apple iPhone 5 Nokia Lumia 920 Samsung Galaxy S III
Dimensions 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm 130.3 x 70.8 x 10.7 mm 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm
Weight 112g 185g 133g
Screen Size 4.0 inches LED-backlit IPS TFT
640×1136 res, 326ppi
4.5″ IPS TFT ClearBlack
768 x 1280 res, 332ppi
Super AMOLED 4.8″
720 x 1280 res, 306ppi
Processors Apple A6
PowerVR SGX 543MP3
Qualcomm MSM8960 SnapDragon
Adreno 225
Exynos 4412
Mali-400MP
Max Speed 1.2 GHz Dual Core 1.5GHz Dual Core 1.4GHz Quad Core
RAM 1GB 1GB 1GB
Storage 16/32/64GB 32GB 16/32/64GB + MicroSD
OS at launch Apple iOS 6.0 Windows Phone 8 Android 4.0
Connectivity HSDPA 42.2 Mbps
HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
LTE Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
802.11a/b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.0
HSDPA 42.2 Mbps
HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
LTE Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
802.11a/b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 3.1
NFC
HSDPA 21 Mbps
HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
LTE Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
802.11a/b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.0
NFC
Camera 8 MP
1.2 MP
1080p @ 30fps
8 MP Carl Zeiss with OIS
1.3MP
1080p @ 30fps
8 MP
1.9MP
1080p @ 30fps
Battery 1440 mAh Li-Ion 2000 mAh Li-Ion 2100 mAh
Price AED 2749 AED 2449 AED 2499
SunSpider 906ms 923ms 1505ms

The iPhone 5 beats the Nokia Lumia 920 in time to complete the Sun Spider benchmark in just 906ms making it the fastest phone we have tested to date.

Screen UI and Apps

Since the launch of iPhone, Apple has continued to use a 3.5” screen size. This was ok four years back but with other phones pushing the boundaries of portability, the iPhone’s screen started looking quite a bit on the smaller with. With the iPhone 5, Apple tries their best to give you a larger screen without increasing the size of the device by much and thus you now have a 4.0” screen that doesn’t necessarily look much bigger than the 3.5” screen on the previous iPhones. Touch technology is now integrated in the iPhone 5′s screen as opposed to a separate layer below the screen which makes the screen thinner and icons appear as though they are almost floating on the screen.

What Apple has done is simply make the screen taller and not wider. Thus the horizontal resolution remains the same at 640 pixels while the vertical resolution has increased from 960 to 1136 pixels. Where this helps with is that none of the developers need to recompile their apps to work on the iPhone 5. If your app is not optimized for iPhone 5, you will simply see black bars above and below the screen- very much like what you see when watching a widescreen movie at home. If you do update your app, you can utilize the full screen.

The User Interface on the iPhone is starting to show it’s age and an extra row of icons really doesn’t help much. While iOS 6 brings some interesting updates such as Facebook and Twitter integration as well as tap to tweet and post on Facebook, it looks pretty much like it did at launch. Looking at aon OS like Windows Phone or even Android with all it’s widgets certainly makes you want more out of your iPhone.

While the interface looks the same, the performance of moving between screens and apps is phenomenal- you will barely notice a lag or stutter on the iPhone 5 with everything moving in and out smoothly. Android has certainly imporved over the last year but the immediate responsiveness you get from an iPhone continues to but it ahead of Google’s OS as far as responsiveness is concerned.

The iPhone 5 doesn’t come with any exclusive app that you cannot get on older iOS devices. Apple’s updated iOS 6 does bring new apps like Maps and Passbook but they’re also available on iPhone 4S. Touching real quick on the two apps, Passbook doesn’t have any apps that are supported in the region and, although we know the disaster associated with Apple Maps, what makes it worse is that there are no turn-by-turn directions for this part of the world yet. Luckily Google Maps got released today and I’m sure Apple will get their mapping app sooner than later. Siri has also been updated providing more info on movies and sports as well as allowing you to tweet or post on Facebook but again, nothing ground-breaking as far as Apple apps are concerned is exclusive to iPhone 5.

Camera

Apple continues to improve the camera on the iPhone and although the number of pixels that the iPhone 5’s camera takes continues to stay at 8MP, you can see the difference in the speed and quality of shots. Low-light photos have certainly improved however, the Nokia Lumia 920 remains the king of phone cameras. Same thing with videos which are recorded in 1080p and are of pretty good quality but the Lumia bests it. You do have an option of taking a picture while shooting a video now as well as take Panoramic shots that stitches pictures together but again, these are new iOS features that are available on the older 4S. Where the iPhone helps significantly is the speed at which you can take pictures- it’s almost instant. However, there were time when I had to wait for the camera app to load.

The front camera also receives an update and now takes videos at 720p helping with Facetime videos which is sadly blocked in the UAE.

Battery Life

With a larger screen and faster processors, I wasn’t expecting the iPhone to not fare too well as far as battery life is concerned. After all, the iPhone has never been a contender for best battery life and the battery equipped on the iPhone 5 is marginally better on the new iPhone- 1440mAh vs 1432mAh on the iPhone 4S.

The result? You’ll get about the same time of usage on an iPhone 5 that you did on an iPhone 4S. For casual users that don’t have push mail, that means almost two days while moderate users should easily make it through a way. For heavy duty users, I’d expect a 12-14 hour day before needing to recharge and by heavy usage I mean push mail, a good hour or so of iPod usage, around the same for web browsing and some navigation.

Conclusion

The iPhone 5 is the best iPhone to date. That was a given. The question is that does it still have what it takes to compete with the latest generation of Android handsets as well as Windows Phone 8 handsets. In short, yes. The construction quality of the iPhone 5 is superior to any other phone I’ve reviewed and the interface is fast and butter smooth. Many apps still debut on the iPhone before making their way to other platforms- a testament to the eco-system that Apple has built.

What works against the iPhone 5 is iOS6 which is now showing it’s age. There is no denying that Android offers a lot more flexibility while Windows Phone 8 brings a slick new UI and Apple really needs to update the core OS. However that hasn’t stopped the iPhone 5 from selling out and I would suggest you get yours from Etisalat or du before that happens here in the UAE as it did with the iPhone 4S.

Prices for the iPhone starts at AED 2749 for 16GB which is slightly more than what you would pay for the Nokia Lumia 920 or the Samsung Galaxy S III LTE at the telcos. It’s not cheap but with most of these handsets, you are getting a quality product that should serve you well for a couple of years. Check out our iPhone 5 buyer’s guide to decide which plan works better for you between Etisalat and du.

Samsung Galaxy S3 becomes region’s first 4G LTE phone

December 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, News, Smartphones

A day before the launch of the iPhone 5, Etislalat, the largest telco in the region is releasing the Samsung Galaxy S3 in an LTE flavor. Priced at AED 2,400, the 4G capable Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE will be able to download data at speeds of 100Mbps. Priced at AED 2,400, consumers signing up with a pre-paid plan will receive 1GB free data for their first month while post-paid consumers can get a bundle of 4GB data, 800 local / 200 international minutes and 200 SMS for AED 249 per month.

Press Release

Etisalat welcomes the UAE to a new era of 4G LTE mobile experience as Etisalat announces the exclusive availability of ‘Samsung Galaxy S3 4G LTE’ on the country’s widest, high speed Etisalat 4G LTE network.
Etisalat’s customers can enjoy 4G LTE super speeds of up to 100Mbps on this new Samsung smartphone that is priced at AED 2,499. Offering AED2400 of the device value back as free talk time, data and SMS over 12 months, Etisalat gives customers attractive options of contract-free pre-paid and post-paid bundled packages, starting 12 December 2012.
Pre-paid customers will receive 1GB data free for the first month and AED99 monthly rental from second month onwards. Post-paid customers can get a bundle of 4GB data, 800 local minutes or 200 international minutes of voice calls and 200 SMS (worth AED449) for only AED249 per month. Over a period of twelve months, customers get the device value of AED2400 back as talk time, data and SMS included in the bundle. Customers enjoy the flexibility to switch their preference between receiving free local or international talk time, bundled with their Samsung Galaxy S3 4G LTE plan.
The new Samsung smartphone will have speeds of up to 100 Mbps which will allow customers to enjoy high speed apps such as video-streaming, online gaming and many other facilities on the nation’s first and widest 4G LTE network. Etisalat’s 4G LTE network has the capability to support speeds of up to 150Mbps and has recently conducted the world’s first 300Mbps speed test on its LTE network.

Chief Marketing Officer at Etisalat, Khaled ElKhouly is excited about the far reaching potential of the new smartphone device. He said, “Etisalat was the first in the region to launch its widest 4G LTE network across the UAE in September 2011. While our customers have thoroughly enjoyed LTE super speeds through data devices available in the market, there has been a great demand for LTE-enabled voice devices. We are excited to be first in the region once again to introduce the Samsung Galaxy S3 4G LTE smartphone, allowing our customers to explore the unlimited possibilities of 4G LTE 100Mbps speeds, that too at an amazing price-back advantage of AED2400.”

The 4G LTE network provides coverage to 80% of the UAE’s populated areas and allows full mobility and smooth transition between LTE and HSPA+. Customers outside 4G network areas will automatically connect to Etisalat’s 3G network ensuring their access to reliable and high speed internet wherever they go. Etisalat’s 3G network has the widest coverage in the country covering 99% of the populated area and is the most reliable high-speed data network in the country.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 4G LTE was created to compliment the lifestyle of the social media savvy individual. Featured as the intelligent phone for humans, it includes various innovative smart features such as Smart Stay, Direct Call, Smart alert, Social tag and S voice which promise to enhance the customer user experience. The operating system of choice here is Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which is beautifully accompanied by Samsung’s user friendly TouchWiz interface. The phone is equipped with an 8 megapixel digital camera, a 4.8 inch screen and offers 16,384 MB of internal storage. In addition to this the S3 is also equipped with Additional Display Support, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor and scratch resistant glass surface.

Customers can subscribe to the new Samsung Galaxy S3 4G LTE plans and receive their devices from any of Etisalat’s Business Centers and Outlets across the UAE. For more information on price plans for Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE, customers can visit www.etisalat.ae.

« Previous PageNext Page »

Competitions
Tech Events
Sony Science Show Event

A ‘scientific’ fun Friday for children.

Tbreak Developers Conference

Meet the industry experts.

Newsletter Sign-up
join our mailing list
* indicates required