Best portable battery chargers (January 2019)

Smartphone technology has come a long way in the past few years, but there is a lingering issue that is taking time to evolve — battery life. Sure, batteries are getting bigger and phones more resourceful, but many of us still have a problem keeping our devices alive. One solution is to charge your phone throughout the day, something that proves to be an issue when there is no outlet around. The next best solution is to buy yourself a battery pack or one of the many portable chargers to charge on-the-go.

With so many options around, we know it’s hard to find the best units on the market. That’s why we’ve curated a list of the best portable chargers! While many use these devices to charge their phones, many modern electronic devices can be charged up including select laptops, tablets, and game systems like the Nintendo Switch.

Let’s get started and show you our picks for the best portable battery chargers you can buy right now. 


Best high-capacity options

Anker PowerCore+ 26,800mAh portable battery charger

Anker is a trusted name when it comes to portable battery chargers, and this particular option offers it all. To start with, you get the massive capacity of 26,800mAh, which is more than enough to fully recharge your smartphone multiple times. The power bank comes with three USB ports, including a USB-C port with 30W output to let you charge a MacBook and the Nintendo Switch. Like every portable charger on this list, you get protection from short circuits, overcharging, and current and voltage surge. The portable charger also comes with a 30W USB-C wall charger.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 26,800mAh
  • Output: 2 x USB ports 5V/3A max, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A or 9V~15V/2A or 20V/1.5A (30W max)
  • Dimensions: 166.1 x 80 x 23.1mm, 576grams
  • Current price: $129.99

RAVPower 20,100mAh portable charger

This RAVPower portable charger offers features that are similar to the Anker charger above, with a few key differences. The capacity is slightly lower at 20,100mAh, but the USB-C port offers a 45W output. The capacity is still more than enough to recharge a smartphone multiple times and the device can be used to charge laptops like Macbooks and the Dell XPS 13 or 15 as well. 4 LED indicators let you know how much charge the power bank has remaining. You also get a standard USB-A port that will let you charge a second device simultaneously.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,100mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB ports 5V/2.4A max, 1 x USB-C port 5V~15V/3A or 20V/2.25A (45W max)
  • Dimensions: 160 x 78.5 x 23mm, 400grams
  • Current price: $59.99

AUKEY 20,000mAh portable charger

Portable battery charger - Aukey

AUKEY is a pretty well-known name in the phone accessories industry. Its product lineup includes this 20,000mAh external battery that features a thin and slim design compared to the more bulky devices on this list. Even with its thin casing, it has four power output ports for charging up to four devices at once, including three standard USB ports plus one USB Type-C port to charge the latest smartphones.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A max, 3 x USB ports 5V/2A
  • Dimensions: 200 x 96 x 14mm, 435grams
  • Current price: $39.99
 

MAXOAK 50,000mAh portable charger

If you want to get a portable battery charger that can charge all of your smartphones, laptops, and tablets at once, then the MAXOAK charger may be for you. It not only has a massive 50,000mAh capacity, but it has no less than six charging ports. One of the ports has a 20V/5A charging capacity for laptops. Another port has a 12V/2.5A charger, while two others have a 5V/2.1A capacity. The final two ports have a 5V/1A capacity. It may not be the most portable power bank on this best portable chargers list, but it should be more than enough to cover all your charging needs.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 50,000mAh
  • Output: 6 ports (1 x 20V/5A, 1 x 12V/2.5Am 2 x 5V/2.1A, 2 x 5V/1A)
  • Dimensions: 205.7 x 134.6 x 33mm, 1.25kgs
  • Current price: $135.99
 
Looking for more high-capacity power bank option? check out our guide to the best ultra-high capacity portable chargers (26,800 mAh and above).

Best smaller capacity option: Anker PowerCore Slim 5,000mAh portable charger

Anker PowerCore Slim

The Anker PowerCore Slim, as the name suggests, is a thin, sleek, and ultra portable battery charger. The device comes with a 5,000mAh capacity, which should be enough to fully charge or get close to a full charge with most current smartphones. It comes with a single USB port that takes advantage of PowerIQ technology to allow for the fastest charge possible. While the PowerCore Slim may not be as feature packed as the other ones on this best portable chargers list, its portability is the biggest selling point.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 5,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x PowerIQ port 5V/2A
  • Dimensions: 124.5 x 63.5 x 10.2mm, 126grams
  • Current price: $29.99

Be sure to check out our guide for more portable chargers with a capacity of 10,000mAh or less.


Best for wireless charging power bank: AideaZ 20,000mAh portable battery charger

Portable battery charger - AideaZ

The Aidez portable charger not only has a battery with a big 20,000mAh capacity but also offers wireless charging. Owners can place compatible phones on top of the battery and charge them cable free. It also has two USB Type-C ports with Quick Charge support for a more conventional, and faster, phone charging experience. That means this portable battery can charge two wired phones and one wireless phone at the same time. The battery also has an LED indicator to let you know the exact charge percentage left in the battery.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 20,000mAh
  • Output: 2 x USB-C output ports (5~6V/3A, 6~9V/2A, 9~12V//1.5A), wireless charging
  • Dimensions: 170.2 x 61 x 22.9mm, 377grams
  • Current price: $44.99
 
 

Jump start capable battery pack: Beatit 500A 10,800mAh portable charger

The Beatit portable jump starter is ideal for anyone looking to address all their emergency power needs with a single device. This portable charger will jump-start a 3.0L gas or 2.5L diesel engine up to 20 times on a single charge. It also comes with three USB ports, including one with support for Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 and a USB-C port, to keep your devices charged on the go. There is also a flashlight with three modes — normal, SOS, and strobe. Considering all its features and its affordable price, this is one of the best portable battery chargers for anyone who is on the road a lot.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 10,800mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB port 5V/2A, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A, 1 x QC 3.0 port 5V/2A or 6.5V~9V/1.5A or 9V~12V/1A
  • Current: Start current 250A, Peak current 500A
  • Dimensions: 145 x 84 x 25.4mm, 454grams
  • Current price: $39.99

Best for solar battery chargers: RAVPower 25,000mAh solar charger

If you’re the outdoorsy type, this is the best portable charger to get. It offers a large 25,000mAh capacity and features a solar panel on top for charging the device while you’re out and about. It’s also waterproof and there’s a flashlight on board that can be used in case you run into trouble on your adventure. The power bank has three USB ports, including a quick charge port and a USB-C port. All of these features make it a great option for those who love to hike, camp, and do similar outdoor activities.

Key details:

  • Capacity: 25,000mAh
  • Output: 1 x USB port 5V/2.4A, 1 x USB-C port 5V/3A, 1 x QC port 5V/3A or 6.5V~9V/2A or 9V~12V/1.5A
  • Dimensions: 233.7 x 99 x 38.1mm, 550grams
  • Current price: $52.99
For more solar battery chargers, be sure to check out our extended guide.
 

There you have it. These are our picks for the best portable chargers currently available! Now hit the comments and let us know which portable battery charger would you consider getting. Are there any other portable battery packs you think your fellow Android fans would like?

Related

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 review: What’s old is new again

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is the clear successor to last year’s Mi Mix 2 and Mi Mix 2S, now redesigned to compete head-to-head with the Honor Magic 2. It offers very similar specifications and features, and it also utilizes the same unique slider design as the Magic 2. Only time will tell if the slider form factor of yesteryear is truly making a comeback, but the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is one of two smartphones in recent months to reintroduce this design. This is our full review of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3.

Design

The combination of ceramic and aluminum provides for excellent build quality and at 218g the phone feels very substantial.

The overall design of the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is nothing short of what you would expect from Xiaomi. The Mi Mix 3 utilizes Xiaomi’s signature ceramic backing and a 7-series aluminum frame along the perimeter. The combination of ceramic and aluminum provides excellent build quality and at 218g the phone feels very substantial. Some may not like the weight, as it is one of the heaviest phones on the market, but I personally didn’t mind the heft. The phone makes good use of rounded corners, curved sides, and tapered edges for better comfort and a stylish appearance.

The ceramic backing is reflective and glossy, making it tough to keep fingerprint-free. It’s definitely a beautiful device if you can manage to keep your paws from greasing up its backside.

The slider mechanism satisfyingly clicks into place when open or shut and even has a spring back effect that’s reminiscent of slider phones of old.

The slider mechanism is fully manual and works just like the Honor Magic 2. Sliding the screen down opens up the phone, revealing the front-facing cameras. Xiaomi also included sound effects to make sliding the phone open and closed a little bit more fun. The slider mechanism satisfyingly clicks into place when open or shut and even has a spring back effect that’s reminiscent of slider phones of old. The slider feels sturdy overall and Xiaomi rates it at 300,000 cycles, but the front half has a slight wiggle. It’s probably not something to worry about, but I didn’t notice a wiggle with the Honor Magic 2’s slider.

Display

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 continues the trend set by previous Mi Mix devices with a full-screen experience and minimal bezels. The slider makes shrinking the bezels easier, since the front-facing cameras are hidden inside of the phone. This means Xiaomi didn’t have to use a notch or put the front-facing camera on the bottom of the phone as in previous iterations.

A 6.39-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display fills the front of the phone with an impressive 93.4 percent screen-to-body ratio. Corning Gorilla Glass 5 is used to protect the screen from scratches. The display is vibrant, colorful, and exhibits the excellent contrast we’ve come to expect from AMOLED displays. At 600 nits of brightness, the screen is easily visible in direct sunlight.

The nearly bezel-less display is a joy to use on a daily basis. Content like movies and YouTube videos look fantastic. It almost feels like you’re just holding a display in your hands. It may not be as high resolution as some of the competing flagships on the market, but you most likely won’t notice. It’s a quality panel and that’s all that matters.

Performance

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 comes with the usual internals that we’ve seen in flagship Android smartphones all year. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor runs the show with either 6, 8, or 10GB of RAM. I used the 6GB variant with 128GB of storage.

As expected, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 performs swimmingly. Whether you’re casually swiping through the interface, launching apps, playing games, browsing the web, or multitasking, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is smooth and responsive. The abundance of RAM allows the Mi Mix 3 to keep tons of apps open without ever slowing down. High-end games run with consistent frame rates and the phone never got alarmingly hot or warm during gaming sessions.






The Mi Mix 3 is fast to charge with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+ and wireless charging is available as an added convenience.

Battery life performance on the Mi Mix 3 is merely average. With a 3,200mAh battery that’s smaller than many competing smartphones, this wasn’t too surprising. Screen-on time averaged around four hours, which is good for a full day’s worth of use, but only if you’re using the phone casually. More intense use such as gaming and extended camera usage will drain the battery quickly. Thankfully, the Mi Mix 3 is fast to charge with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+ and wireless charging is available as an added convenience.




Hardware

Aside from wireless charging, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 doesn’t offer too many extra bells and whistles. There’s no IP certification against water and dust due to the phone’s slider design and you won’t find a headphone jack either. There’s also no microSD card slot for expandable storage, but the 128 and 256GB storage options should be more than enough for most people.

Face unlock can be used as an alternate method of security but this feature won’t be enabled until a future OTA update and will only come to select markets.

The most notable piece of hardware is a dedicated AI button on the left side of the phone. This is similar to the Bixby button on Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones, but it’s much more useful since it ties to Google Assistant.

Unlike the Honor Magic 2, the Mi Mix 3 has a physical fingerprint sensor on the rear panel, not an in-screen sensor. The sensor is fast and accurate. Considering in-screen fingerprint sensors aren’t quite as reliable in their current state, Xiaomi’s decision to go with a physical sensor was a smart one. Face unlock will work as an alternate method of security, but not until a future OTA update and only in select markets.

Camera

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 comes with a total of four cameras. The rear is equipped with two 12MP sensors. The primary camera features a f/1.8 aperture lens, dual-pixel autofocus, and optical image stabilization. The secondary sensor is a telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture and provides 2X optical zoom.

The main front-facing camera comes in at a whopping 24MP and is paired with a 2MP sensor. Only the 24MP sensor takes photos while the 2MP sensor is designed to assist with portrait mode, studio lighting effects, and AI scene detection. Portrait mode, studio lighting, and AI scene detection are also available on the rear cameras.

Portrait mode on the Mi Mix 3 works very well with clean cutouts of subjects and a convincing background blur. Very rarely did the Mi Mix 3 struggle with separating the foreground from the background. The bokeh can also be adjusted after the fact to increase or decrease separation between the subject and background. The studio lighting effects are fun if you want to make your selfies look a little more interesting but it doesn’t always do a perfect job cropping you from the original background, as you can see with my right ear in the images below.



Many smartphone cameras now include AI scene detection and they all work more or less the same. The Mi Mix 3 can detect scenes like food, plants, text, landscapes, and more. If the phone detects a scene you’ll see a visual indicator within the camera’s viewfinder and the camera will adjust the image accordingly in an attempt to provide a better-looking image.

I noticed that the AI scene recognition mostly just ups the saturation, contrast, and the overall brightness of the image. If you don’t dig the extra color and contrast, you can disable the AI. I personally didn’t mind the results it gave me as they’re not as heavy-handed as those found on some other phones.



The camera’s excellent dynamic range kept highlights from overexposing which provided more detail in these areas.

Whether or not you decide to use the AI, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is an excellent smartphone camera for photography. Images are crisp and full of detail and color reproduction is very pleasant with good white balance. The phone handled all sorts of situations extremely well, and night time shots were impressive. Details are very crisp and sharp, and noise is minimal. Many smartphone cameras tend to struggle with highlights in low light photography but such is not the case with the Mi Mix 3. The camera’s excellent dynamic range kept highlights from overexposing which provided more detail in these areas.

We’ve included a full gallery of samples below for easy viewing but you can see the full-res images by clicking here.

Gallery

Software

The Mi Mix 3 ships with the latest Android 9 Pie and version 10 of Xiaomi’s popular MIUI software. Although I prefer my Android software as stock as possible, MIUI is pleasant to use and easy on the eyes. The UI is very minimalist and doesn’t overwhelm you with bright colors, opting for a more pastel color palette. The UI is highly customizable with a big library of wallpapers and MIUI offers a great selection of themes for changing the UI’s aesthetics.

MIUI comes with many other useful features such as a one-handed mode, gesture-controlled shortcuts, and dual app support. The software also leverages the slider mechanism as a shortcut for taking a selfie or automatically launching into a specific application when sliding the phone open. Although MIUI has a lot of features and software tricks, none of them feel intrusive and many are quite useful. The experience is also free of third-party bloatware, which keeps the software clean. There is a lot of Mi branded software preinstalled, but that’s par for the course.






Specifications

  Xiaomi Mi Mix 3
Display 6.39-inch AMOLED
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9 screen ratio
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Octa-core, up to 2.8Ghz
GPU Adreno 630
RAM 6GB/8GB/10GB
LPDDR4x
Storage 128GB/256GB
UFS 2.1
Cameras Rear cameras
Main: 12MP with 1.4 micron pixels, 4-axis OIS, f/1.8 aperture (IMX363)
Secondary: 12MP 2x telephoto with 1.0 micron pixels, f/2.4 aperture (S5K3M3+)
Video: 4K at 60/30fps, 1080p at 960/240/120/60/30fps, 720p at 960/240/120/30fps

Front cameras
Main: 24MP with 1.8 micron “super pixels”, f/2.2 aperture (IMX576)
Secondary: 2MP sensor for depth effects (OV02A10)

Audio USB Type-C
No headphone jack
Battery 3,200mAh battery
Quick Charge 4+
10 watt wireless charging
IP rating N/A
Sensors Rear fingerprint
Hall
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Proximity
Ambient Light
Electronic Compass
Barometer
Network GSM: B2, B3, B5, B8 CDMA 1X, EVDO: BC0, BC6, BC10
WCDMA: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, B8, B9, B10
TDD-LTE: B34, B38, B39, B40, B41(2496-2690)
FDD-LTE: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B7, B8, B12, B13, B17, B18, B19,B20, B25, B26, B28, B29, B30, B66
Connectivity Wi-Fi: 2×2 MIMO, MU-MIMO, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4G/5G
Bluetooth 5.0
AptX/AptX-HD support
NFC
Dual frequency GPS (GPS L1+L5, Galileo E1+E5a, QZSS L1+L5, GLONASS L1, Beidou B1)
SIM Dual nano-SIM
Dual 4G standby
Software MIUI 10
Android 9.0 Pie
Dimensions and weight 157.9 x 74.7 x 8.5mm
218g
Colors Jade Green
Onyx Black
Sapphire Blue

Pricing & Final Thoughts

Pricing for the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is as follows: 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage for 3,299 yuan (~$475); 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage for 3,599 yuan (~$520); 8GB RAM and 256GB of storage for 3,999 yuan (~$575); and a 10GB RAM and 256GB of storage special edition for 4,999 yuan (~$720).

Aside from China, the Mi Mix 3 has also been confirmed for a U.K. release. Its wider availability will make this sliding phone much easier to obtain than the China-exclusive Honor Magic 2. That alone will make it a much more appealing option for those who want a phone in this form factor.

The Mi Mix 3 doesn’t disappoint as a flagship smartphone. It offers fantastic specs with great performance, great design, a near bezel-less screen, and a fantastic camera that takes excellent photos in all conditions. It lacks battery capacity and isn’t water resistant, but that’s a sacrifice you’ll have to make if you want to experience a new take on an old design.

Unihertz Atom review: You won’t want to use it, and that’s the point

The Unihertz Atom is a tiny phone with a 2.45-inch display. It comes with decent specs, but the phone’s design is what’s really going to spark conversations. About 80 percent of the people I showed this phone to told me they totally wanted one.

Should they want one enough to fork out $260? That’s what we are here to find out.

Manufacturers have been making our phones bigger and faster for years. Now a new breed of smartphones is trying to satisfy the needs of minimalists, aimed avoiding virtual distractions and keeping people in touch with reality.

It makes sense! Phones can get addictive. It’s the same reason devices like the Palm Phone and connected smartwatches even exist. However, those still need to pair with a more capable device. The Unihertz Atom is an Android handset that can operate as your primary smartphone. With dual-SIM capabilities, it could even replace a couple handsets.

The real question is whether people will make a bit of room for this phone in their pockets, or if it’s just a cool novelty we only want at first.


Unihertz Atom review: Design & build quality

Unihertz Atom

The design of the Unihertz Atom is its biggest selling point. The idea is simple: take the power and functionality of the Android OS and compress it into a tiny package. Unihertz did this with the Jelly phone, but things are quite different this time around.

Design is the biggest selling point for the Unihertz Atom.

Edgar Cervantes

The mini smartphone now has a rugged design that should make it more resistant to the daily beating some of us give our handsets. The Unihertz Atom feels sturdier and more solid than its predecessor, but it is also thicker and bulkier at 96 x 45 x 18mm. I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily a problem — the phone still feels tiny.

Unihertz Atom

Unihertz Atom next to iPhone XS Max

There is a 3.5mm headphone jack on top, which makes us wonder why manufacturers keep saying size is an important factor for removing these. The volume buttons along the left side are accompanied by a dual-SIM card slot, while the right side houses a power button, a PTT (push to talk) button, and a USB Type-C port. You will find a 16MP camera in the back. The front features a 2.45-inch display, dual front-facing speakers, an 8MP shooter, a fingerprint reader/home button, and two capacitive buttons.

Though it looks kind of like a toy, the Unihertz Atom certainly doesn’t feel like one.

Edgar Cervantes

It looks kind of like a toy, but it doesn’t feel like one. The rubberized plastic, textured back, and shock-absorbing corners are comfortable to hold and feel secure. It isn’t even a bit slippery! I wasn’t as worried about dropping it (never did), and its IP68 certification means exposing it to the elements shouldn’t be an issue either.

Unihertz Atom
Unihertz Atom
Unihertz Atom
Unihertz Atom

We wish the bezels were thinner (or the screen bigger), as the screen-to-body ratio is abysmal, but a smaller profile is something we really shouldn’t be complaining about. For what it’s worth, the Unihertz Atom seems to have it all, which surprised me and every other person I have shown it to.

Unihertz didn’t settle for the basics, it even threw in elements we never expected to see in a minimalist phone like this one. These include the fingerprint sensor, a 3.5mm headset jack, and even an additional button dedicated to PTT communications.

Unihertz Atom


Unihertz Atom review: Display

You would be right to assume a phone like this doesn’t get to tout an amazing screen. This tiny panel sports a 240 x 432 resolution, which translates to a 201.7ppi density. Compare that to the over-400 pixel density of current high-end phones and things start to look a bit blurry. You can definitely see the pixels in this screen, especially when reading tiny words.

You would be right to assume a phone like this doesn’t get to tout an amazing screen.

Edgar Cervantes

Colors are vibrant, but also seem very inaccurate. Not to mention weird color elements are usually present in most images and video.

Overall, it is not a screen you will enjoy looking at for long periods of time, but we suppose that is fine given the nature of the device. The Unihertz Atom doesn’t need a good screen, it just needs to be usable — and this one certainly is (even if just barely). Not to mention those who buy this phone aren’t exactly looking for a media-consumption device.

Unihertz Atom

I absolutely hated seeing my product photos in this screen. I also tried watching Netflix and YouTube. It was OK, but I never really got immersed in the experience. I was easily distracted by things around me and often pocketed the device, figuring I could just watch my videos when I got home.

In a way, this means the tiny display accomplished its mission to unglue from your phone.


Unihertz Atom review: Sound quality

Again, nothing to write home about here. The phone’s sound is passable, but ordinary. Call audio seems fine. I could hear people well, and they could hear me (or so my friends said).

I had a hard time understanding the loudspeaker when calling or listening to media in loud places, though. Don’t even try playing music with it while driving. It simply won’t work. Things sounded just fine when at home, in my quiet room, but compared to other phones audio was a bit tiny.


Unihertz Atom review: Performance & hardware

In terms of performance, the Unihertz Atom is an affordable mid-range handset. It costs $259.99 and operates just like a phone at that price range should. Its octa-core processor and 4GB of RAM keep it running smoothly as long as you don’t go nuts with it.

The unihertz Atom costs $259.99 and operates just like a phone at that price range should.

Edgar Cervantes

Don’t expect it to handle many games or intensive apps well. It can play Flappy Bird like a champ, so some casual gamers will be happy with it. I tried to run Asphalt 9: Legends for kicks, and it actually worked! I could race with it, but loading took forever, it crashed a few times, and there was obvious lag in button pressing. Not to mention the tiny screen and bad resolution made it really hard to do well in races.

Editor’s Pick

Normal processes like checking email, going through social media, messaging, and requesting an Uber ride showed no issues. Of course, you won’t get the smoothness of a Snapdragon 845 when scrolling and opening apps, but the Unihertz Atom takes on every casual task with no hiccups. Once again, it’s usable. You wouldn’t expect much else from any device at this price point.

I also love how it has 64GB of internal storage, which is plenty to store your music, apps, and other content.


Unihertz Atom review: Specs

  Unihertz Atom
Display 2.45-inch LCD
240 x 432 resolution
201.7ppi
Processor 2GHz octa-core processor
RAM 4GB
Storage 64GB
MicroSD No
Camera Rear: 16MP AF
Front: 8MP FF
Battery 2,000mAh
Fingerprint scanner Yes
Headphone jack Yes
Software Android 8.1 Oreo
Dimensions 96 x 45 x 18mm
Weight 108 grams


Unihertz Atom review: Software

Fans of the stock Android experience will be happy with the Unihertz Atom. This is as close to pure Oreo as it can be. There are no apparent modifications in the UI, but Unihertz threw in some enhancements. The most obvious one is that PTT physical button, which can be used with Zello to talk to people Nextel style.

I have no need for PTT communications, so it’s good the phone has an option for changing the button’s functionality. You can choose to launch any app with the PTT button. I picked the camera, but any app of your choice will work the same. The one downside to switching the button’s functionality is that it won’t launch any other app with the screen off (it does with Zello).

Otherwise, there is not much to see here in terms of software, it’s just Android 8.1 Oreo. We would usually say this is a good idea, but with such a small screen we think the UI should have optimized, which is something Palm did with its companion phone. As it is, the Unihertz Atom feels unintuitive and cramped.

In addition, plenty of apps are not optimized for such a tiny display, which often an issue. Some elements will be too large. One clear example is the time stamp on Facebook Messenger. This is an issue you will encounter often, and it’s not exactly Unihertz’ fault. Developers should fix this, and unless these tiny phones become a trend, they likely won’t.

Another huge issue Unihertz should have given more thought to is typing. Oh my god… typing!

Edgar Cervantes

Another huge issue Unihertz should have given more thought to is typing. Even a seven-year old with skinny fingers had a hard time typing on this phone!

With my chubby fingers, I had to heavily rely on predictions, so I am glad I am a SwiftKey user. Typing was still hard, but using Flow (swiping) at least quickened my messaging. You could also go with voice typing and handwriting apps. Regardless, an official solution is needed to ensure a smooth experience.


Unihertz Atom review: Camera

Unihertz Atom

The Unihertz Atom camera is horrible.

Edgar Cervantes

I tend to dive deeper into the camera section of review, but there is no need here — this camera is horrible!

I wasn’t expecting much, but the Unihertz Atom camera went even lower than my underestimations. Images seem washed off, colors are dull, exposure is always off, there is often weird artifacting in direct light, and detail is lacking.




I am not saying Unihertz should throw a state of the art camera on a $259.99 phone, but this device is meant for adventures. More attention should have been paid to the camera.


Unihertz Atom review: Battery life

If the thought is to take you away from the distractions of the internet, battery life should be an important factor. You don’t want to be out camping and worry about charging your phone. While the Unihertz Atom doesn’t do too badly in this department, it is also no battery champion.

Unihertz Atom

Its 2,000mAh battery is small for today’s standards. The phone also isn’t as resource intensive, though. They small screen, lackluster definition, and modest specs should keep it alive for longer. That’s all theory, and I wasn’t exactly impressed with this phone’s battery life.

Editor’s Pick

I averaged about three hours of screen-on time. Overall the phone would last me all day on a single charge. By the time I went to sleep the phone was under the 20 percent mark, and I wasn’t even using it that much. Battery life is generally OK, but I expected more.


Unihertz Atom review: Final thoughts

Smartphones are addictive machines meant to keep you looking at a screen as much as possible. They are very immersive. The minimalists among us may want to live with no digital distractions, but they also need smartphones to go about their lives. Those are the users Unihertz is trying to cater to.

The Unihertz Atom is not a bad deal at $259.99. For people who want less, some of the Unihertz Atom’s shortcomings can be seen as advantages, and not in the silly way other manufacturers disguise mistakes as features.

Unihertz Atom

When you check your email on a regular smartphone, you are bombarded with information and distractions. What you mean to be a quick look can easily turn into a multi-hour hole filled with games and cat videos. With the Unihertz Atom you do what you have to do and get on with your life. The price and purpose make its shortcomings more bearable.

With the Unihertz Atom you do what you have to do and get on with your life.

Edgar Cervantes

Should I get the Palm Phone instead?

You could… but only if you can. It happens to be a Verizon exclusive, so there’s that bottleneck. And the fact that mostly makes the Palm Phone a waste is that it can’t be used as a standalone device; it needs to be linked to another line with a compatible smartphone. So technically, Palm and Verizon want you to own (and pay for) two phones.

Those willing to overlook said issues will get a more refined design, thinner profile, and what feels like a speedier experience, as the UI is actually optimized for the smaller screen. By the way, the screen is also better, and has a 1280 x 720 resolution.

That’s about where benefits end, though. Typing is also cumbersome with the Palm companion, even if not as much, thanks to the extra finger room you get from the 3.3-inch display. The battery is a joke at 800mAh. The camera is also bad.

In short: the Palm Phone is better, mostly because of design and the much better screen. I would gladly pay the extra $90 (plus $10 extra monthly fee) for it if I wanted a secondary phone and was with Verizon.  Those that don’t fit the requirements can go with the next best thing in tiny smartphones: the Unihertz Atom.

Xiaomi Black Shark review: A blast for your buck

Gaming smartphones had a breakthrough in 2018, with multiple renowned companies in the field launching their super-powered handsets. These include the Asus ROG Phone, Razer Phone 2, and today’s review subject, the Xiaomi Black Shark.

Check out the Asus ROG Phone vs. Razer Phone 2 vs. Xiaomi Black Shark to see how the three phones differ. Today we’re focusing on the Xiaomi Black Shark.

This is the most affordable gaming handset of the three, starting at 2,999 yuan (~$434). Xiaomi’s tendency is to bust through industry doors with no regards of the competition, offering top-notch specs, great design, and plenty of features, while undercutting prices by far. Let’s see how well the Xiaomi Black Shark follows this trend.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Design & build quality

back of xiaomi black shark with retail box

Like any gaming product worth its salt, the Xiaomi Black Shark design is bold and shameless. You will know it the minute you lay eyes on it. The device is black with green metal accents, and glass parts along the back. Housed in the rear you can also find the dual cameras (12MP and 20MP), LED flash, Black Shark branding, and a light-up logo surrounded by a textured design.

Around the edges there is another green metal outline, as well as the power and volume buttons along the right, the Shark Space toggle in the left (more on this in the software section), a USB Type-C port towards the lower edge, and the bottom speaker grills.






The front of the device takes a more traditional black slab approach, though. It has a notification light, a 20MP front-facing camera, and a fingerprint reader in the bottom bezel. The reader also works as a home button, and though you can’t see them, two capacitive buttons to its left and right work as the back and overview buttons, accordingly.

The Xiaomi Black Shark will turn heads and satisfy that gamer need to own flashy tech.

Edgar Cervantes

This device will turn heads and satisfy that gamer need to own flashy tech. The logo in the back lights up with notifications, which I find pretty darn awesome. Though it is made mostly of plastic and glass, it is the best-built device of the big three gaming handsets.

The Black Shark’s sturdy grippy surface and back recessions will give you a secure grip while gaming. I wish Xiaomi had followed the norm with thinner bezels along the front, but this is a gaming handset. You don’t necessarily expect it to be small or thin. Instead, the Xiaomi Black Shark is solid, unique, and comfortable to hold (at least as much as a rectangular smartphone can be).


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Display

The Xiaomi Black Shark sports a 5.99-inch IPS LCD panel with a 2,160 x 1,080 resolution and an 18:9 screen ratio. IPS LCD displays are known for great color accuracy, but the same can’t be said about the Xiaomi Black Shark’s screen. It is very saturated and the blacks are super deep, making the experience seem more like an AMOLED one.

xiaomi black shark display

You should look elsewhere if you prioritize accuracy.

Edgar Cervantes

In our testing we found even the “Natural Mode” calibration’s color temperature goes up to 8778k, while the ideal one is 6500k. Average color error is also sky high at 7.1 Delta E 2000. This would make it the screen with the second highest average color error we have tested. You should look elsewhere if you prioritize accuracy.

The screen gets pretty bright at almost 560 nits, though. While colors are not that accurate, the image looks good for gaming, with exaggerated colors and deep blacks. The display pops, which further immerses you into the game.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Performance & hardware

Gaming products are all about performance. The Xiaomi Black Shark certainly doesn’t disappoint on paper. Its specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, up to 8GB of RAM (6GB if you go for the 64GB storage version), and an Adreno 630 GPU.

The Xiaomi Black Shark is fast, smooth, and will present very few hiccups. The same can be said about any high-end device, though.

Edgar Cervantes

This is a powerful device. It is fast, smooth, and had very few hiccups. The same can be said about many high-end devices, though. The Xiaomi Black Shark has other elements to entice gamers.

For starters, an “Extreme Mode” can be turned on while gaming to bring the processor to higher speeds and take better advantage of the phone’s resources. In addition, you can easily clean the RAM to liberate memory. There is a difference when turning it on, but it is minimal. Loading times shorten by like a second or two. Smoothness seems basically equal, at least to the naked eye.

Needless to say Xiaomi’s liquid cooling didn’t seem to work wonders.

Edgar Cervantes

Gaming can make a device really hot, which in turn affects performance. The Xiaomi Black Shark uses a unique liquid cooling system the company claims will reduce temperature by 8 degrees Celsius when compared to traditional all-copper.

This cooling system might get you all hyped up because liquid cooling is the fanciest method for PCs, but it doesn’t quite work the same in this smartphone. The small amount of liquid will start evaporating as its chamber gets hotter, travel to cooler areas, and turn into liquid again.

xiaomi black shark cooling system

This allows for better cooling at first, but eventually the chamber will get too hot for the system to work. I managed to cross that point often and the phone got uncomfortably hot. Needless to say it didn’t seem to work wonders.

Those looking for accessories can also enjoy the included gamepad, but it only attaches to one side and has a joystick, as well as two shoulder buttons. It is a nice addition, but I don’t like that it is single-sided. Those looking for something better now have another option.

xiaomi black shark gamepad

The company recently announced the Xiaomi Gamepad 2.0, which has extensions to both sides of the phone. The Gamepad 2.0 features a joystick and D-pad on the left side and a touchpad and ABXY buttons on the right side. Both sides feature a trigger button and a triangle-shaped button near the bottom.

All of the buttons are mappable too, giving you a little more flexibility in various games.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Specs

Display 5.99-inch IPS-LCD
2160×1080 resolution
403 PPI
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
GPU Adreno 630
RAM 6GB / 8GB
Storage 64GB / 128GB
MicroSD No
Camera Rear: Dual 12MP / 20MP cameras

Front: 20MP camera

Battery 4000 mAh
Fingerprint scanner Yes
Headphone jack No
Software Android 8.1.0 Oreo
Dimensions 161.6 x 75.4 x 9.3mm
Weight 190 grams
Colors Black, gray, and royal blue


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Camera

xiaomi black shark camera

All photos shown in this review are compressed and reduced. Pixel peepers can always check out this Google Drive folder to see the full, uncompressed photos. 

For some, a camera can make or break a phone. Many deem it the most important factor in a smartphone. The Xiaomi Black Shark is not for the mobile photographers among you. That is not to say it can’t take some great photos, though. It is a high-end 2018 phone, after all.

Let me tell you right off the bat the Xiaomi Black Shark is not for the mobile photographers among you.

Edgar Cervantes

Daylight




In daylight we get pretty good detail, exposure, and contrast, but the camera fails in some ways. That lame watermark is on by default, so if you are not careful you might end up with some unwanted publicity in your otherwise beautiful shots. I always leave stock settings alone for testing purposes, so I didn’t turn it off — make sure you do!

The dynamic range is also lackluster. Highlights are fine, but a tremendous amount of light is lost in the shadows. Look under the bushes, and you will see a deep darkness. The clock also looks way too under-exposed, even though I set the exposure and focus point to it.

HDR


HDR brings out the shadows more, but the results are still underwhelming compared to HDR in the best smartphone cameras. At least there is a way to improve dynamic range, though!

Color


Colors are bright and vibrant as long as they catch the right light. The Coronado sign looked much more saturated in real life, but the environment was a bit darker, as the sun began to set on the other side of the building. Turn to a well-lit store with crocheted dolls and things look much more lively. We do still wish contrast was on the higher side, though.

Lowlight


The shots are well exposed, but we can’t say the Xiaomi Black Shark is great at taking photos in the dark. In both images you can easily tell the shots have been over-softened too much, which results in loss of detail. Not to mention the phone struggles to get white balance right, especially in the first picture.

Portrait mode


Portrait mode shots suffer from the same shortcomings as other shots, but I was impressed at how well the camera outlines us to create the bokeh effect. This is something most smartphone cameras miss.

We were both outlined as close to perfect as these phones get, and I happen to like how gradual the bokeh is. This means closer objects look clearer than the farther ones. You can better appreciate this in the second image, where the cannon starts to blur out slowly, as well as the grass.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Software

Fans of the pure Google experience will love this phone. The UI looks just like that of a Pixel smartphone. Xiaomi didn’t even add its own apps. All its customization options are in the Settings app. The phone’s software really is as clean as it gets.



There are gaming options to be had, though. When in a game you can slide down on the fingerprint reader (in landscape mode) and the Game Dock will slide down from the top, overlaying the game interface. From here you can change gamepad settings, turn Wi-Fi on or off, activate the NoIncall mode, turn NightMode on, and disable the keypad. Hit the more button to turn off notifications, toggle ExtremeMode, clean the RAM, hang up a call, or access more settings.

xiaomi black shark game mode

In addition to the dock, Xiaomi created Shark Space. This mode can be turned on using the physical toggle on the left side of the phone. When activated, the phone will automatically clean the RAM and disable all notifications, calls, and messages, effectively killing all distractions. In addition, the phone will display a clean UI with a list of your games, gamepad settings, gaming stats, and more.

xiaomi black shark shark space

I believe the Xiaomi Black Shark is too simple to be a true gamer’s machine

Edgar Cervantes

Aside from these discrete additions, Xiaomi did a great job keeping this phone as clean as possible. It is a joy to use, but I would also argue a gaming phone needs more gaming features. The Asus ROG Phone, for example, lets you manage device temperature, CPU and RAM usage, light color modifications, cooling modes, presets, and more.

I believe the Xiaomi Black Shark is too simple to be a true gaming machine. Gamers tend to demand more customization and control over their machines.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Sound quality

The Xiaomi Black Shark sounds good, but it won’t be winning any audio awards. It sounds loud enough to be immersive.

I have to complain about how the phone offers dual speakers but one of them is not front-facing. This is mostly a problem because it’s easy to cover when playing in landscape mode, an orientation nearly every game uses. This results in random muffled sound.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Battery life

xiaomi black shark speakers and charging port

The Xiaomi Black Shark actually did quite well against our battery tests. When playing video continuously at 200 nits, the device was able to last for 735 minutes (12 hours and 15 minutes) before dying. When continuously loading websites, it went for 820 minutes (13 hours and 40 minutes), which is significantly higher than the average 675 (11 hours and 15 minutes).

It starts to die faster when playing, but I never played enough to really see it go from 100 percent to zer0 percent. I’d say it should average at about four to five hours of straight gaming.


Xiaomi Black Shark review: Price and conclusion

Two versions of the Xiaomi Black Shark are available. It starts at just 2,999 yuan (about $434) for the version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. You can upgrade to the iteration with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage for 3,499 yuan (about $508).

back of xiaomi black shark on retail box

Gamers looking for the most bang for their buck need look nowhere else. Hell, even non-gamers will probably find this phone an amazing deal considering the specs. However, there is one huge caveat — Xiaomi devices aren’t exactly easy to come by for most of us.

Sure, it isn’t exactly the best gaming phone out there, but…

Edgar Cervantes

For starters, it is not available in the U.S. Only select markets can get Xiaomi devices directly. The rest of us need to import them. The value Xiaomi offers makes it hard for supply to keep up, too. If you can get your hands on one, the performance and capabilities make the Xiaomi Black Shark a steal.

It has the specs to handle all the games you need, and Extreme Mode offers that boost many of you will enjoy. Sure, it isn’t exactly the best gaming phone out there, but it is plenty capable and carries a significantly lower price tag than its direct competitors.

This is also a pretty cool device to use as a daily driver for the times you don’t want to game — if there are any.

Running Samsung Dex and EMUI on a 49-inch ultrawide monitor? Sure, why not

Samsung CJ89 Monitor Wide Angle Picture

Chrome OS and Android offer portable alternatives to your traditional Mac and Windows desktop environments and some big phone names have been working to improve the Android experience further. It’s been a while since we played around with some of the most well-known options, so we thought it was time we caught up. While not as fully featured as a traditional OS, Samsung Dex and Huawei EMUI offer functional desktop environments bringing mobile apps to big screens.

There are few bigger screens than the ultra-wide-screen 49-inch Samsung CJ89 monitor. The monitor supports display inputs over USB Type-C, making it an ideal testbed for running smartphone desktops. Before we dive into a bit more about the mobile-come-desktop experience, here’s an overview of the Samsung CJ89 monitor.

Meet the Samsung CJ89

At 49 inches, the Samsung CJ89 is a monster. It completely fills your peripheral vision, which is arguably a tad impractical. It’s basically impossible to take everything in at once. I’m used to a dual monitor setup, but the CJ89 really is something else. “Super ultra-wide screen,” as Samsung describes it, probably doesn’t go far enough. You can easily fit three or four windows side by side.

  Samsung J89 specs
Display Size 48.9-inches
Aspect Ratio 32:9
Screen Curvature & Viewing Angle 1800Rm, 178°(H) / 178°(V)
Resolution 3,840 x 1,080
or 2x 1,920 x 1,080
Response Time 5ms (gray-to-gray)
Refresh Rate 144Hz
Contrast Radio 3000:1 (Typical),
2400:1 (Min)
Brightness 300cd/m2 (Typical),
250cd/m2 (Min)
HDR? No
Ports 1x HDMI (v2.0)
1x Display Port (v1.2)
2x USB Type-C
3x USB Type-A
1x 3.5mm headphones

Quality wise, the display hits the right notes. It could probably do with a little more vertical resolution than just 1,080, but that would bump up the graphics requirements to power this beast. At 300 nits, it’s retina-scorchingly bright when cranked up up all the way in my dingy office. Meanwhile, the contrast and color balance are perfectly fine for my eye, though the display is more about its crazy width rather than groundbreaking specs. There’s no HDR support here, for example, and the 7W built-in speakers are no match for a dedicated external pair.

The monitor features a ton of ports on the back, though just one HDMI 2.0 and one DisplayPort 1.2 for PC connections. The rest are USB ports to connect up peripherals, two of which are USB Type-C supporting high wattage Power Delivery to charge up phones and tablets. The USB Type-C ports also support display signals, meaning you can mirror your laptop, tablet, or phone’s display.

Samsung CJ89 Monitor Ports

I hope you like USB ports because the CJ89 has plenty of them, but only one HDMI and one DP.

Single monitor, dual inputs

One of the Samsung CJ89’s more unique features is its Picture-by-Picture mode. This takes inputs from two of the port inputs, which it can mix and match, and displays them simultaneously. Supported secondary inputs include another PC, a laptop, or a mobile device.

Furthermore, these secondary devices can connect using a range of inputs. The two USB Type-C ports on the back support Android screen cloning, EMUI Desktop, and Samsung Dex. They are also powered at up to 15W and 95W, so they can charge up your phone and power the Samsung Dex Station while running the display.

Picture-by-Picture mode allows you to run two devices on the display side by side

Samsung CJ89 Monitor DEX

The feature isn’t seamless when using a Dex Station. This slightly older Samsung product doesn’t support video over a USB Type-C connection, so you need to connect using the HDMI port on the back of the Dex Station to the monitor. There’s only one HDMI connector, so you’ll have to mess around with adaptors to keep your primary PC connected too.

This isn’t a problem with the latest Samsung devices. Both the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and  Galaxy Tab S4 support Dex over just a USB Type-C cable. These models remove the need for a dock altogether, matching Huawei’s EMUI Desktop. When connecting via USB-C, you can use your PC keyboard and monitor by flicking a simple switch.

Why use Android desktop environments?

The persistent question about Samsung’s Dex and Huawei’s EMUI is why? Why use a slightly sluggish, less comprehensive operating system for PC work when you probably have a perfectly functioning desktop or laptop at hand?

There’s something rather helpful about having the same apps you regularly use on your phone on your desktop side-by-side. Ensuring the morning’s emails are answered and properly synced, without having to rely on Outlook or various web tabs, is great. It’s also rather neat for apps with notifications, like Slack or WhatsApp, so your phone and PC app don’t duplicate the notifications. Having one app at your desk for each feature is less hectic and there’s plenty of room on this monitor for that type of multitasking.

Samsung CJ89 Monitor EMUI

Handling the work day’s usual phone notifications in a desktop environment is a pleasant change

That you can also use a single keyboard and mouse setup for both operating systems with this monitor makes this actually practical. That said, you have to fiddle with the Switch USB button to swap the peripherals over. It’s a necessary feature, but it prevents this from being a seamless experience. Especially as there’s a slight delay during the changeover, as it’s basically unplugging and plugging your keyboard back into Windows.

This side-by-side feature definitely won’t be a major selling point for many consumers. Those dipping their toes into Dex or EMUI might actually get some good use out of a dual monitor type setup like this though. Of course, if you’re simply planning to plug your computer into this monitor, you’ll avoid most of the pain points I’ve mentioned here.

Samsung CJ89 Super Wide Screen Monitor

Final thoughts

If you’re wanting to use a monitor like this as I have, the Samsung CJ89 is definitely built for modern devices that support monitors over USB Type-C. Laptop class power over USB Type-C also makes the monitor a power hub for your portable gadgets. However, the single HDMI input makes it difficult to use the multi-display mode with older devices. You can always use cable adapters, but I wouldn’t recommend it. While mobile desktop options have improved in recent years, they’re still no match for a dedicated desktop.

Editor’s Pick

As an ultra-wide-screen monitor, the Samsung CJ89 is pretty great. With a 32:9 aspect ratio, the 49-inch monitor has plenty of space for multiple applications. Once you get used to the monitor’s humongous size, it’s a multitaskers dream. The biggest drawback is its 7W speakers, which are passable for voice but frankly terrible for music and film sound effects.

At 899 pounds and 1,409 euros (around $1,140) this is an expensive monitor I personally can’t quite justify. At this price point, the monitor should offer HDR, a higher resolution, and support for FreeSync to make the most of its 144Hz refresh rate. Dex certainly works, but I’m not switching over to a mobile OS for work anytime soon. The idea is undeniably enticing though: as phone desktop modes improve, you could save so much money on a computer you could (maybe) justify spending at least some of it on a crazy ultra-wide monitor like this.

Honor 10 Lite hands-on: The budget selfie king?

Last month, we reviewed the Honor 10. The device was admirable for something that only costs 399 euros (~$453), bringing last year’s flagship Kirin 970 processor, plenty of RAM and storage, and a high resolution camera.

The phone brought quite a lot of value to the mid-range market, but Honor is looking to introduce an option for those on an even tighter budget.

We just got our hands on the Honor 10 Lite, and here are our first impressions.

Honor 10 lite rear

Related:

The Honor 10 Lite is definitely a flashy device. While it comes in standard black and silver colors that shimmer in Honor’s classic “Aurora” pattern, there’s also now a sky blue option which transitions from a light baby blue at the bottom to silver at the top. I think it looks quite good.

However, it’s proven to be a fingerprint magnet during the time I’ve had with it.

Honor 10 lite standing back

There is a fingerprint reader nested in the top third of the device with a 13MP and 2MP dual-camera setup sitting to the top left. These sensors have apertures of f/1.8 and f/2.4 respectively. The 13MP sensor is the primary camera while the second is primarily used for depth sensing.

The glass on the back feels fairly premium, but the aluminum sides feel a bit cheap. It’s also fairly light at 162 grams.

Honor 10 lite screen notch
Honor 10 lite chin

The Honor 10 Lite has a 6.21-inch 1080p LCD display with a small waterdrop-style notch design. This notch houses a 24MP selfie camera with an f/2.0 aperture. It can recognize up to eight different selfie scenarios and react appropriately, adding things like color adjustments and skin smoothing. It also offers multiple different studio lighting modes.

The screen isn’t incredibly disappointing, but it does make it clear that this isn’t a flagship device. There is a noticeable difference in quality between this panel and the Honor 10. Even though the colors are quite deep and punchy, the display feels almost matte, and could definitely be sharper.

Honor 10 lite micro usb
Honor 10 lite headphone jack
Honor 10 lite bottom

The clear sign this is a budget device comes in the form of a MicroUSB port on the bottom of the phone. A single bottom-firing speaker and a headphone jack sit on either side of the port. The headphone jack seems to have become a budget feature, but I’m very glad to see it included nonetheless.

The other budget giveaway is the phone’s specs. The Honor 10 Lite is powered by Huawei’s Kirin 710 mobile chipset, 3GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. This won’t come close to competing with Huawei’s flagship Kirin 980 or even last year’s Kirin 970, though the octa-core processor should perform decently for everyday tasks. However, we’ll have to wait to review the device in full before we can make a final verdict. There is a microSD card slot in the device, which can expand the total storage capacity up to 512GB.

Honor 10 lite screen

The Honor 10 Lite runs on EMUI 9.1, based on Android 9 Pie. EMUI has quite a controversial user interface — most people either love it or hate it. The phone comes with standard Android soft keys and no app drawer, but users can toggle on gesture navigation and even enable the app drawer if they want.

We won’t have official European pricing for the device until it officially launches in the U.K., but the phone costs 799 dirham in the United Arab Emirates, about 192 euros or $217. That’s about half the cost of the Honor 10, so this could be a great option for fans of the company with a bit tighter budget.

What are your thoughts on the Honor 10 Lite? Is it the budget device you’ve been waiting for?

Let us know!

Oura Ring 2 review: The early adopter catches the worm

The Oura Ring 2 is an exciting ring-shaped health tracking device that measures something a little different from all the other calorie-focused trackers out there. In theory it can help you to feel better, perform better, and make smarter decisions regarding health and training.

This is the second iteration of a relatively-underground product that launched on Kickstarter a couple of years ago. The company is still small, but it has begun generating quite a buzz in the biohacking community.

In this Oura Ring 2 review, let’s see if this really is the game changing piece of kit that the health tracking industry sorely needs.

The concept

To my mind, fitness trackers have huge untapped potential to help us measure our daily activities, mental performance, and physiology in actionable ways. Unfortunately, most trackers amount to little more than fancy pedometers with not-so-accurate heart rate monitors.

For all I love the idea of tracking my fitness, I go through long stretches of not wearing these devices because, quite simply, the data they provide is not quite worth the inconvenience of wearing them.

fitbit charge 3 black band display

If you’re want to lose weight, a Fitbit or similar alternative can be a useful tool for tracking calories, but as I’ve explained on the site before, those measurements are imperfect and the entire strategy has its issues.

The Oura Ring 2 places its focus elsewhere: on providing deeper, more actionable data around sleep, stress, and recovery. This isn’t just about losing weight; it’s about performing your best and feeling better. That the video on the original Kickstarter campaign featured people playing the piano and conducting business is telling. This isn’t just for running and weightlifting. Oura calls it “living ready.”

Oura calls it ‘living ready.’

Can a ring really help you to overcome the chronic fatigue and stress endemic to the 21st century?

Hardware: Put a ring on it

The ring is packed with the usual sensors: an infrared heart rate monitor measuring slight changes in the color of your skin, a gyroscope, accelerometer, and three temperature sensors. Using that, it can autodetect when you fall asleep, identify how long you spent in each sleep stage, count how many times you wake up in the night, and measure your heart rate. Likewise, it counts steps during the day and lets you manually add activities. All this information is then visible through the app, divided into days.

Oura Ring 2 Heart Rate Monitor

I have no complaints with the design and comfort of the ring. The original Oura was rather large and ostentatious looking, and drew a lot of attention to itself. The new ring is much subtler and can easily pass for a regular piece of jewelry. It comes in matte black, glossy black, rose gold, or chrome, and looks like a perfectly round wedding band apart from a slight point indicating which way is supposed to face up.

The device has no blinking lights or other readouts (even the IR sensor remains dark), and a welcome feature for many is the option to put it into airplane mode. That’s handy for airplanes (this could be a useful tool for combating jet lag), but also for people who are funny about wearing technologies that emit any kind of signal.

It’s very easy to forget it’s there. If you’re used to wearing any other kind of ring, this is no different.

Most importantly, I found wearing the device during my Oura Ring 2 review very comfortable. It’s very easy to forget it’s there. In fact if you’re used to wearing any other kind of ring, then this is no different. Because it’s so subtle, you can easily wear this along with a watch and not look ridiculous — which is another benefit of a finger-bound device.

Oura Ring 2 Jewellery

The Oura Ring 2 is not that different from a wedding band

There are practical advantages to wearing a fitness tracker on your finger too. It’s much easier to obtain a heart rate from the thin flesh here, and your extremities are the first to show a change in body temperature. More on this later.

Related

When I reviewed the Motiv Ring a few months back, one complaint I had was that it got scratched very easily during training and wasn’t comfortable when weight lifting or boxing. While this is still true to a degree with the Oura Ring 2, the titanium with scratch-resistant DLC construction is certainly superior to the ceramic Motiv ring. I’ve only picked up a few light scratches on the underside so far. However, seeing as this is more of a health tracker than a fitness tracker, it actually matters a whole lot less.

Motiv Ring vs Oura Ring

The slightly less durable Motiv Ring

The ring can store six weeks of data without syncing, and you’ll be able to get six days of use between charges. It charges pretty quickly, so you can just place it on the stand during your morning shower when prompted (though it is water resistant if you wish to keep it on).

Overall, the design and attention to detail is excellent here.

Overall, the design and attention to detail is excellent here — especially for a small startup. The entirely white, cube-shaped box makes a strong first impression, and the charging stand looks good and is easy to use as well (which bucks the trend for fitness trackers that normally come with fiddly and unusual charging methods). The app does need some work in a few key areas, but we’ll discuss that more in a moment.

Oura Ring 2 review: The best sleep tracking in town

Don’t miss

The Oura Ring 2 is probably the best sleep tracker I have ever used. On the face of it, like the best Fitbit devices, it will give you a detailed breakdown of your time in light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. This tells you not only how long you have slept, but how restorative that sleep was likely to have been. Sleep detection is also incredibly accurate, with the reports being spot on 99 percent of the time. I had one night that didn’t seem to correlate with what I’d experienced, but it wasn’t major difference and it was a one off — something any device on the market will occasionally experience.

The Oura Ring 2 is probably the best sleep tracker I have ever used.

The only big omission I noticed, is that it doesn’t seem able to detect day-time naps. I know that’s something Bailey will be disappointed to hear. Similarly, while my wife was in labor the other week (woop!) I actually went one entire night without sleeping and rather than registering that for what it was, the ring acted as though I had not been wearing it (even though it would have been able to detect waking movement the entire time). Rather than saying “oh no, you haven’t slept like… at all,” it instead treated the data as missing.

Oura Ring Sleep Tracking

This is what sleep looks like when you’re a new dad

So, there are a couple of drawbacks, but what’s impressive is all the additional data the Oura Ring 2 tracks during sleep.

Resting heart rate is an excellent indicator of recovery, and of overall physical fitness, for example. A post on the Oura blog explains how a U-shaped curve demonstrates your body has fully recovered from the day before, whereas as a downward slope might indicate you could have benefited from a little extra nap time — explaining why you perhaps wake up feeling groggy and what to do about it next time.

Resting heart rate is an excellent indicator of recovery, and of overall physical fitness.

You’ll also be able to see how long it took you to fall asleep (sleep latency), how optimal your sleep timing was with regards to external cues, how efficient your sleep was, how many times you woke up, and more. Tapping on any of these points will then provide more detail — often a graph or chart accompanied by some explanation by Oura and perhaps a link to an external blog post. All this is great and it is by far the most detailed sleep tracking I’ve ever encountered.

Oura Ring 2 side view

A Biohacker’s dream: Readiness and heart rate variability

But wait, there’s more.

Digging deeper, there’s a whole lot more data you don’t typically see in these kinds of apps. To name a few: body temperature, a recovery index, and heart rate variability.

Oura ring body temperature

Body temperature of course tells you just how hot or cold you were during the night. This very useful inclusion could bring to light some interesting patterns and trends. For instance: does being cooler at night help you sleep better?

It can also indicate that something might be wrong, like if you have the start of a fever. Not many other trackers provide users with this data and the Oura has an edge here, seeing as it’s easier to measure temperature changes from the fingers and toes.

Oura Ring 2 on Hand

Resting heart rate data is meanwhile taken and used to generate a “recovery index.” This shows you how long it takes for your resting heart rate to stabilize once you hit the sack. Tapping that item in the app tells us this should happen in the first half hour after you hit the hay. There’s so much to dig into here and explore, you can spend a long time each morning reading your stats.

Heart rate variability is an even more interesting stat a lot of people won’t be familiar with. This basically tells you about your sympathetic tone, and whether you are sympathetic or parasympathetic dominant (fight or flight, or rest and digest).

There’s a lot of fascinating heart rate variability research being conducted at the moment, and it could also be linked to optimal mental states for performance and other cool stuff.

While many of us assume our heart rate takes on a steady rhythm, the truth is it changes as you breathe in and out. When you breathe in, your heart rate should increase slightly, and when you breathe out, it should decrease. If you are highly stressed, your heart rate will be constantly elevated and your breathing will have less of an impact on it. This essentially suggests you are either chronically stressed or overtraining and need more time to recover.

There’s a lot of fascinating heart rate variability research being conducted at the moment. It could be linked to optimal mental states for performance and other cool stuff. Other fitness trackers simply aren’t accurate enough to provide this data, but the 250Hz infrared lights here are more than capable (the pulse strength in the finger is also greater than on the wrist — 50-100 times greater in fact!).

Oura then takes all of this data and uses it to provide a “readiness score.” This intended to advise your training schedule. If your readiness is low, then you should avoid intensive training that day, maybe reschedule a hectic meeting, and perhaps reflect a little on what you could change about your current lifestyle. In short, it aggregates all that complex data and turns it into a single number you can act on.

Oura Ring 2 Readiness Score

I will never be ‘ready’ again

A couple of miss-steps

I’m singing the Oura Ring 2’s praises a lot here because it is the device I’ve been waiting for a long time. This fitness tracker doesn’t just measure the same old tired data, and it provides some actually useful and actionable advice. It’s a glimpse at how technology can help us perform better.

That’s not to say it’s perfect.

Oura Ring 2 Design

One area of concern for me was with the step counting. I noticed the app often reported I had completed thousands more steps than my other tracking methods. I spoke to a rep from Oura about this and they explained that the “steps” counted are actually a measure of overall movement and energy expenditure, translated to steps (the metabolic equivalent to steps). This is actually a more useful method on the whole than strictly tracking steps, though it is a little confusing given the app reports the score simply as “steps.”

It’s a shame there isn’t also a simple step count shown. It would be useful if this was a pedometer, too. I’m also not 100 percent convinced — how can the motion sensors pick up enough movement from a single finger to recognize such a broad scope of movement?

The app was often reporting that I had completed thousands more steps than my other tracking methods

Activity tracking could also use a little smoothing out. It detects activities like walks and runs automatically, but it won’t recognize every type of training. That included my own workouts, which was probably fair enough. I was mainly doing a lot of pull ups and push ups, which don’t provide much movement in the hands.

It is reasonable to expect it might at least notice the elevated heart rate and register that as a period of heightened activity. No such luck.

Training wearing the Oura Ring 2

This triceps workout will need to be added manually to the app

Another shortcoming is with compatibility. Apple users can connect the app to Apple’s Health Kit without an issue, but Android users have no such option. There’s no support for Google Fit for instance, so you can’t register workouts with a second tracker and have the data sync up automatically. There’s no way to connect to MyFitnessPal either, which means you can’t really use this as a tool for losing weight, as you might a Fitbit.

This is coming to the product very soon (sometime in 2019) so it’s not totally fair to mark it down on that basis. However, as it stands, don’t expect the kind of deep integration with third party offerings that you’ve maybe come to expect.

There’s no way to retroactively add a workout for a previous day

For now, any workouts you do will need to be added manually. Unfortunately, if you should forget to do this one day, you’ll miss the opportunity. There’s no way to retroactively add a workout for a previous day. That’s down to the complexity of the algorithms used and understandable, but it’s still a shame that my data will be incomplete (and corresponding advice wrong) if I forget to log my training — something I often do. I wouldn’t mind seeing my readiness score change when I update my data — in fact it would be encouraging.

The app’s UI also needs work. It’s quite fiddly to find what you’re looking for and syncing with Bluetooth occasionally takes a little longer than it should. Still, the app is being actively updated all the time and I’ve already seen improvements. In fact, they just recently added an on-boarding process to the iOS version for orienting new users. Presumably the Android version will get the same treatment soon.

Oura Ring App

Some of those might sound like big problems, but Oura assures us more updates are coming. This is still a product in its infancy (despite this being the second hardware iteration) and apparently a lot of cool stuff is planned.

In future, I’d really like to see some graphs and charts showing relationships between the data. For instance, I’d love to see how my body temperature correlates with how soundly I slept. As it is, it’s great to be able to see trends over time and a baseline though.

Oura Ring Review

Perhaps the best way to think of this is as a health tracker first and a fitness tracker second. It’s actually ideal for wearing in conjunction with a traditional wrist-worn tracker, and once integration with other apps is introduced, it will become even more potent in that regard. Although the data it offers is slightly imperfect due to the shortcomings I’ve identified, it’s still more than enough to be actionable and it’s the only device doing anything like this right now. I’m really excited to see where this goes in future.

What to do with all this data?

Ultimately, the amount and quality of the data here is better than any device I’ve used before. It truly makes it possible to make positive lifestyle changes and see them reflected in my sleep and the way I feel. This is the promise of every sleep tracker, but very few provide enough detail or explanation to be practical in that regard. None of them offer insights like body temperature and heart rate variance.

For instance, I was feeling a little rough a few weeks ago and when I looked at the app, I could see my “recovery index” was low. Tapping the icon explained this could be a result of a late-night workout — which I did that night — and my resting heart rate was exactly what you might expect it to be as a result of this.

I read a user review stating they used the Oura Ring to predict the onset of a cold before it hit. Personally, I’ve been using it to track how well I’m coping with the extreme sleep deprivation that comes from fatherhood. Suffice it to say, not well! However, at least I now know how bad the damage is and whether or not to consider training as a result.

One user used the Oura ring in order to predict the onset of a cold before it hit

In some ways the Oura Ring 2 still finding its footing, but it is pretty awesome already and there’s a lot more awesome coming. For the price (around $350), it might be worth hanging on a little while longer if you’re a casual user (perhaps until the Google Fit integration next year). If you love this stuff as much as I do and consider yourself an enthusiast, you’ll have no regrets becoming an early adopter. Whoever you are, the ring can certainly help you understand more about yourself and why you feel rough some days and great on others.

This is an excellent device for any biohacker and has the potential to become essential for a much larger audience soon.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) review: The rise of the mid-range

To a lot of people, Samsung just makes flagship devices like the Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy Note 9. However, it also makes a range of mid-tier devices with its “J” and “A” series. The “J” phones are the more competitively priced and the “A” range is designed to be more premium. I recently got hold of a Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) because I wanted to run Speed Test G on it and its Exynos processor. I was so impressed, I thought it warranted a full written review!

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) design

The first things you may notice about the A7 are the bezels. In an age where flagship devices are all about edge-to-edge displays and getting the highest screen-t0-body ratio possible, the A7 (2018) might seem a little jarring. When I showed the device to a teenager in my family, the first reaction was, “wow, look at the bezels.”

The A7 (2018) has a 10 percent lower screen-to-body ratio than a device like the Galaxy S9 Plus, which is one of the reasons it’s cheaper. Making all those curved edges costs money in the manufacturing process. That doesn’t mean the A7 (2018) is ugly — it isn’t. In fact, if you can see past the bezels, it has a certain elegance, even a premium look and feel.

The device has a 2.5D rear glass back, which means it is a glass sandwich with some kind of toughened plastic frame acting as the filling. The glass on the back can be a fingerprint magnet, or more precisely a finger-smear magnet, but that is par for the course nowadays.

The buttons are fine but the volume keys may be a bit too far up. All the buttons are on the right side and the SIM tray is on the left. My biggest gripe is with the power key — not as a power key, but as a fingerprint reader. It works well as a power button, but it is quite narrow, which means using it for authentication or unlocking isn’t as seamless as other Samsung experiences. Yes, you can wake and unlock the phone using your registered finger on the power button, but not 100 percent of the time. Once it in while it will glitch and you need to try again (or even a third time). I guess we have been spoiled by the high accuracy of existing fingerprint reader technology.

On the bottom edge of the device, there is a headphone jack (hooray), a MicroUSB port (not so much hooray), and a single speaker. The audio is clear and loud and doesn’t suffer from distortion at higher levels.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) display

The A7 (2018) has a 6.0-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED Infinity Display. It is bright, clear, and vivid. The colors are rich, and as usual with AMOLED the blacks are deep. Once you have grown accustomed to the bezels, the vibrancy of the display makes using the Galaxy A7 a pleasure. You might even catch yourself wondering why you need to spend so much money on a flagship, when devices like this exist in the mid-range.

There is no physical home button, so on-screen navigation is the order of the day, something that’s been the Samsung way for quite a while now. The 6.0-inch display offers a screen resolution of 2,220 x 1,080 (FHD+), which is actually the default resolution for flagship devices like the S9 and Note 9 (although they can go higher). The display has a 18.5:9 aspect ratio, and a 411ppi density.

Overall the display is certainly a strong plus point for the A7 (2018).

See also: The best displays of 2018

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) software

The A7 (2018) comes with Android 8.0 Oreo and Samsung Experience 9.0. If you are familiar with Samsung’s skin and UI then you will feel right at home here. Because of the unifying nature of the Samsung Experience, the UI looks and responds exactly like a bigger flagship. When I put the Note 9 next to the A7 it is hard to tell them apart from a UI perspective. The settings menu is the same, the Samsung icons are the same, and the theme is the same.

Editor’s Pick

One thing missing compared to its bigger siblings is Bixby Voice. While Bixby Home is present (swiping left from the home screen) the voice assistant isn’t included and there is no dedicated Bixby button. I guess Samsung considers Bixby a luxury for flagship owners. The snarky side of me is tempted to say the lack of Bixby voice is another reason to buy the A7 (2018), but I shall resist! The device still has AI functionality, though — you can access Google Assistant by long pressing on the home key.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) performance

The A7 (2018) uses the 14nm Exynos 7885 processor. It has an octa-core CPU with two 2.2GHz Cortex-A73 CPU cores and six 1.6GHz Cortex-A53 cores. For gaming, there is good news and bad news. The 7885 features an Arm Mali-G71 GPU. The G71 is an advanced GPU using Arm’s latest Bifrost GPU architecture.

Unfortunately the G71 can be configured by chipmakers like Samsung to including anything from 1 to 32 shader cores. The Exynos 8895 in the Galaxy S8 and Note 8, has a G71 GPU with 20 shader codes. The Exynos 7885 has two. That said, I tested the device with both Asphalt 9 and PUBG Mobile (using the Medium graphics settings) and found the gameplay to be smooth.

The Exynos 7885 also has a built-in LTE modem which supports 2G, 3G and 4G, with LTE download speeds reaching 600Mbps. There is also a nifty Image Signal Processor (more on that in the camera section). On board, there is also 4GB of RAM (6GB on some models), 64GB of internal storage (128GB models available) and a microSD card slot.

For those who like benchmark numbers, the A7 (2018) scored 1524 on Geekbench’s single-core tests and 4379 on its multi-core tests. That puts in into the same ballpark as a Galaxy S7 with a Snapdragon 820 processor. For AnTuTu, which also tests the GPU, the score was 123,302. The AnTuTu score puts the A7 (2018) in the same general area as a flagship device from early 2016.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) battery

The 3,300mAh battery in the A7 (2018) is larger than the battery in the Samsung Galaxy S9 and certainly big enough to give you all-day battery life. According to my testing, you should get at least six hours of screen-on time per charge. That number will increase if you mainly do less demanding tasks like watching YouTube. If you enjoy a bit of 3D gaming, then no fear, five hours minimum. Remember, screen brightness can dramatically change the battery life. If you bump up the brightness to max, expect to shave at least an hour off of all those numbers.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) camera

The camera on the A7 (2018) is a story of simultaneous brilliance and woeful inadequacy. It is brilliant in that it has three cameras — one for normal photos, one for wide-angle shots, and one for depth information. It is brilliant in that the depth camera adds the ability to alter the depth of field while taking a shot, and afterwards. It is brilliant in that the main camera has a 24MP sensor and an f/1.7 aperture, which is great for low-light.

It is woefully inadequate in that the wide-angle camera is just 8MP. It is inadequate because it lacks OIS. It is inadequate because it can only record FHD at 30fps.

Related: Best of Android 2018: The best cameras

Maybe “woefully inadequate” is harsh — this isn’t a premium device — but Samsung has managed to raise the standard with the A7 to a tantalizing level, only to fumble the details. For daily use, there is little bad to say about the main 24MP camera. The colors are true, the dynamic range is good, and the HDR functions work well.

However, the 8MP wide-angle camera is just a little too wide. The pictures often suffer from barrel distortion and the slower f/2.4 aperture isn’t as good in low light.


The third camera is for depth information. It uses a 5MP sensor and an aperture of f/2.2. Those numbers aren’t so important as the purpose of this camera is to enable the depth-of-field functions. The inclusion of a bokeh mode is certainly a plus for the A7, as it is often a feature reserved for more premium devices. While the effect isn’t as precise or advanced as flagship devices, it is nonetheless useful and fun to play with.


Having opted for an 8MP wide-angle camera on the back, there is some redemption for selfie lovers. The A7 (2018) has a 24MP front-facing camera! There is a f/2.0 lens and lots of computational photography options, including bokeh selfies, beauty mode, pro-lighting (for “a more glamorous look and feel”), AR emoji, and wide-selfie, which is basically a panorama mode for the front-facing camera.

It’s not like the 8MP sensor and the occasional barrel distortion on the wide-angle camera ruins the camera experience. Overall the A7 (2018) packs a solid setup backed by lots of interesting trickery from the software.

Here are some more sample photos so you can judge for yourself. If you want to see the full resolutions images you can find them here.

Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) specs

  Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018)
Display 6.0-inch Super AMOLED
2,220 x 1,080 (FHD+) resolution
SoC Exynos 7885 Octa (14 nm), 64-bit
CPU Octa-core (2 x 2.2GHz Cortex-A73 & 6 x 1.6GHz Cortex-A53)
GPU GPU Mali-G71MP2
RAM 4 or 6GB
Storage 64 or 128GB
MicroSD card slot
Cameras Rear cameras:
Triple camera: 24MP (F1.7) + 5MP (F2.2) + 8MP (F.24)
Flash

Front camera:
24MP sensor, f/2.0 aperture, LED flash

Battery 3,300mAh
Network 2G:
– GSM850, GSM900, DCS1800, PCS1900
3G UMTS
– B1(2100), B2(1900), B4(AWS), B5(850), B8(900)
4G FDD LTE
– B1(2100), B2(1900), B3(1800), B4(AWS), B5(850), B7(2600), B8(900), B12(700), B13(700), B17(700), B20(800), B28(700), B66(AWS-3)
4G TDD LTE
– B38(2600), B40(2300), B41(2500)
Connectivity MicroUSB
3.5mm headphone jack
Bluetooth 5 (LE up to 2 Mbps)
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4G+5GHz, VHT80
GPS, Glonass, Beidou
Software Android 8.0
Samsung Experience 9.0
Dimensions and weight 159.8 x 76.8 x 7.5mm
168g
Colors blue, black, gold

Pricing and final thoughts

Overall the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) is a better than average mid-range device. It has a great Super AMOLED screen and an intriguing triple camera setup. The battery life is good and it has a headphone jack! The dual-core GPU could potentially be worrisome to gamers, but if you are more of Candy Crush kind of person, you have nothing to worry about.

If the A7 (2018) doesn’t tempt you, plenty of other mid-range phones have solid chipsets and good cameras, including the Xiaomi Mi A2, Nokia 7.1 Plus, Honor Play, Asus Zenfone 5Z, Moto G6 Plus, or of course the flagship spec’d Pocophone F1.

The Samsung Galaxy A7 (2018) is available in blue, black, and gold for 279 euros (~$317) in Europe and 249 pounds (~$315) in the U.K. Those prices are dependent on various seasonal discounts. It won’t be coming officially to the U.S. but you can find it on Amazon!

Honor Magic 2 review: A phone full of new tricks

The Honor Magic 2 is an exclusive smartphone to China markets, but it’s a very compelling device and could pave the way for future smartphones. It has a slider design, six cameras, an in-screen fingerprint sensor, and a notch-free bezel-less display.

Is the experience as magical as it sounds or is this phone simply just smoke and mirrors? Find out in our Honor Magic 2 review.

Design

Honor Magic 2

On the outside, the Honor Magic 2 looks like your average flagship smartphone. It’s constructed of glass panels on the front and rear with a metal frame holding it all together. The build quality is exceptional. The entire phone makes heavy use of rounded corners, sides, and tapered edges for a sleek appearance that’s more comfortable.

Honor Magic 2 slider

The slider form factor allows Honor to achieve a nearly bezel-less screen with no notch and have the front facing cameras hidden.

What makes the Honor Magic 2’s design unique is its slider mechanism. This is similar to the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 and will give you feelings of nostalgia if you ever used old school slider phones from yesteryears. The slider form factor allows Honor to achieve a nearly bezel-less screen with no notch and have the front facing cameras hidden. Sliding the screen downwards will reveal the three front-facing cameras.

Honor Magic 2 front camera

Having a moving part on a smartphone undoubtedly raises concerns over hardware failure but I don’t see this slider failing anytime soon. The slider mechanism feels sturdy, durable, and solidly holds the front and back half of the phone into place whether the phone is opened or closed. The slider mechanism does, however, prevent the phone from being water and dust resistant. Dust actually collects quite easily in the areas exposed when the slider is open. So far this hasn’t negatively affected the Magic 2 in any way, but do your best to keep these areas clean all the same.

Honor Magic 2

Just like the Huawei P20 Pro from Honor’s parent company, the Magic 2 features gradient color schemes. The model I’ve been using is the black edition, but it looks more silver than black. The Magic 2 also comes in red and blue variants. The black model flows from a bright silver on the top half to a dark blue on the bottom half of the phone. The gradient color is beautiful and eye-catching, but the reflective finish makes the Magic 2 hard to keep clean from fingerprints. The protruding camera lenses on the rear are also a magnet for dust and equally difficult to keep clean.

Display

Honor Magic 2 display

The Honor Magic 2 features a large 6.39-inch full-view 2,340 x 1,080 AMOLED display with incredibly thin bezels surrounding all sides. As mentioned earlier, there is no notch, so you get a fullscreen experience with no cutout. The display looks gorgeous. Colors are vibrant, viewing angles are fantastic, and the screen is sharp and crisp. Viewing content on this display is enjoyable and text and graphics are easy to read. Outdoor visibility on the Magic 2’s display also posed no issues, it gets plenty bright to comfortably see in direct sunlight.

Performance

Honor Magic 2

Editor’s Pick

The Honor Magic 2 is no slouch in performance. The Magic 2 has the same horsepower as the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, with a Kirin 980 SoC and 6GB or 8GB of RAM. The Kirin 980 is one of the most powerful chipsets on the market so it’s no surprise that the Magic 2 performs very well in benchmarks and real-world use. The phone is extremely fast to launch applications, multitask, and navigating through the UI is a silky smooth experience. Gaming is also great. High-end titles from the Google Play Store such as Shadowgun Legends runs smoothly with great graphics and consistent frame rates.





Battery life performance is equally impressive. Although the 3,400mAh battery is not as large as those of Huawei’s P series and Mate series, it’s been more than adequate for the Honor Magic 2. With a good mixture of reading emails, text messages, browsing social media, playing games, and watching YouTube, Magic 2 easily lasted me through a full day. Screen-on time consistently reached the five-hour mark which should be more than enough for most users. The Honor Magic 2 also features a 40W fast charger in the box that gets you a 50 percent charge in only 15 minutes.




Hardware

Honor Magic 2 usb c

Hardware on the Honor Magic 2 is fairly run of the mill. There’s a single USB Type-C port at the bottom accompanied by a single speaker. You won’t find a headphone jack anywhere on the device. There’s also no wireless charging or microSD expansion but the Magic 2 offers plenty of internal storage with 128 and 256-gigabyte options.

Honor Magic 2 fingerprint sensor

It isn’t frustratingly awful to use but it’s not as good as a standard fingerprint sensor.

The Honor Magic 2 has an in-display fingerprint sensor, similar to the Oppo R17 Pro and the OnePlus 6T. A small area of the display is illuminated with a fingerprint graphic to show you where to place your finger to properly unlock the device. One thing all in-display fingerprint sensors currently have in common is their slowness an inconsistency — the Magic 2 is no different. It isn’t frustratingly awful to use but it’s not as good as a standard fingerprint sensor. This technology will get considerably better over time but we probably won’t get to that point until next year.

Camera

Honor Magic 2 rear cameras

Another truly unique feature of the Honor Magic 2 is the camera setup, because it has six sensors — three on the rear and three on the front. The main camera on the rear is a 16-megapixel f/1.8 lens, accompanied by a 16-megapixel wide angle and 24-megapixel monochrome sensor. The monochrome sensor is used for capturing black and white photos and portrait mode photography.

Honor Magic 2

The main front-facing camera is also 16MP, flanked by two additional 2MP cameras. The main sensor is the only one for taking photos, while the 2MP sensors are meant for 3D facial unlocking, portrait mode, and portrait mode lighting effects. The 3D facial unlock works very well and is extremely fast. Slide the phone open to reveal the camera, and the phone unlocks before you know it. This is a much more secure option for unlocking the Magic 2, and it’s much faster and more reliable than the fingerprint sensor.

Both the front and rear cameras take advantage of the Kirin 980’s NPU, incorporating AI scene recognition. This means the camera can recognize scenes and objects like food, plants, urban landscapes, pets, and more, and adjust the image accordingly for the best results. While having the AI scene recognition enabled makes a difference in the way the images look, it isn’t easily noticeable in every scene. In some situations, you might even prefer your photos without the AI enhancements and it’s probably better to keep it turned off if you prefer to tweak your images manually.



General image quality from the rear camera is quite impressive and I found very little to complain about with the Magic 2 as my daily smartphone camera. The camera produces sharp images with accurate colors and excellent contrast. Dynamic range on the Honor Magic 2’s cameras provides great shadow and highlight detail and high contrast situations were handled very well. The camera also performs well in low light. Details are still very crisp and sharp, images are still full of color, and there is very little noise. Highlights in low light situations are handled very well thanks to the camera’s excellent dynamic range. There’s no blooming or overexposure which helps retain plenty of detail.

We’ve included a gallery below for easy viewing but you can see the full resolution images by clicking here.

Software

Honor Magic 2

If you don’t like EMUI, the Magic 2 won’t do much to change your opinion.

The Honor Magic 2 ships with the latest Android 9.0 Pie with Magic UI 2.0 on top. Magic UI is essentially the same interface as EMUI found on other Honor or Huawei devices, but it’s been rebranded for the Magic 2. If you’ve used EMUI before and enjoy the experience, you’ll feel right at home on the Magic 2. If you don’t like EMUI, the Magic 2 won’t do much to change your opinion. I prefer a more stock-like experience so EMUI’s colorful and cartoonish aesthetics aren’t exactly my cup of tea.




With Magic UI 2.0 Honor has implemented its own AI assistant called “YOYO.” This virtual assistant is machine-learning capable and supposed to have mind-reading capabilities, which sounds strange to say the least. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this feature, as it currently only understands Mandarin. This makes sense considering the Honor Magic 2 is only marketed in China. Because this is a device for China markets you’ll also find many Chinese applications pre-installed. Should this device ever come to other markets these apps will most likely not be installed but it’s something to be aware of should you decide to import the Magic 2.

Specifications

  Honor Magic 2
Display 6.39-inch AMOLED
2340 x 1080
403PPI
SoC Huawei Kirin 980
Octa-core CPU (2 @ 2.6GHz, 2 @ 1.92GHz, 4 @ 1.8GHz)
Dual NPU
GPU Arm Mali-G76 MP10
720Mhz
RAM 6GB/8GB
LPDDR4X
Storage 128GB/256GB
Non-expandable
Cameras Main: 16MP f/1.8 sensor
Second: 16MP f/2.2 ultra wide angle sensor
Third: 24MP f/1.8 monochrome sensor
Front:
Main: 16MP f/2.0 sensor
Second: 2MP f/2.4 sensor
Third: 2MP f/2.4 sensor
Audio No headphone jack
Battery 3,400mAh
40 watt SuperCharge
Sensors Gravity
Proximity
Hall
Ambient Light
Front 3D camera
In-Display Fingerprint
Connectivity Wi-FI 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4Ghz/5Ghz
Bluetooth 5.0
Dual frequency GPS
Glonass
Beidou
Galileo
QZSS
NFC
USB Type-C
SIM Dual nano-SIM
Software Magic UI 2.0 or EMUI 9.0
Android 9.0 Pie
Dimensions and weight 157.32 x 75.13 x 8.3mm
206g
Colors Black, Blue, Red

Pricing & final thoughts

Honor Magic 2 design

The Honor Magic 2 costs 3,799 yuan (~$545) for the base model with 6GB RAM and 128GB of storage, 4,299 yuan (~$615) for 8GB RAM and 128GB model, and 4,799 yuan (~$690) for the 8GB RAM version with 256GB of storage. Pricing is very competitive compared to many other flagship smartphones.

Considering how feature packed and powerful the Magic 2 is, it’s a great deal. The notch free display, six cameras, and slider design offer a wonderful and unique hardware experience. The unfortunate part is you’ll most likely pay a lot more to import it, as Honor has no plans to release it elsewhere. If you want a similar slider phone experience, the more widely available Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 might be a better option.

Next: Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 hands-on: The bezel-less slider

Nokia 8.1 hands-on: The best yet from HMD Global?

Nokia 8.1

Last week, HMD Global unveiled the Nokia 8.1 in Dubai and today the company launched its latest smartphone in India.

The new Nokia 8.1 is not a successor to the Nokia 8 or Nokia 8 Sirocco in terms of specifications and also isn’t in the same segment as those flagship smartphones. The nomenclature can confuse you, but essentially, the Nokia 8.1 is the successor to the Nokia 7 plus – a segment that the company likes to call as ‘affordable premium’.

I spent some time with the Nokia 8.1 ahead of its launch, and here are my first impressions of the same.

Design

Nokia 8.1

The Nokia 8.1 sports an elegant dual-tone design with 6000-series aluminum frame that packs in a sculpted glass body. The chrome trims, that we’ve seen on Nokia 7 plus before, up the aesthetics of the phone.

The Nokia 8.1 has a definite flair to it without any outlandish design choices, and the glass and metal are sandwiched tastefully.

On the front, there’s a 6.18-inch Full HD+ edge-to-edge display with an 18.7:9 aspect ratio and 420ppi. It’s an HDR10-compliant display and has a contrast ratio of 1500:1. With the notch and minimum bezels, the 8.1 manages to pack in a larger display than even the Nokia 7 plus.

It’s a beautiful and bright display – with great legibility outdoors in sun – and the new Adaptive Brightness feature in Android 9 Pie automatically adjusts your settings learning from your screen brightness preferences.

Hardware

The Nokia 8.1 is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 710, Qualcomm’s maiden SoC in its new 700 mobile platform series. Snapdragon 710 fits comfortably between the mid-range 600 and high-end 800 series and aims to make premium smartphone features more accessible via mid-range devices, like the 8.1.

And it succeeds in that very well. The AI-powered Snapdragon 710 is a solid chipset and the Nokia 8.1 could give you the impression of flagship innards in your daily drill. With 4GB of RAM, the smartphone just blazes through anything thrown at it.

There’s 64GB of internal storage, and although it’s expandable by up to 400GB using microSD card, many multimedia hoarders would find it a tad underwhelming.

The Nokia 8.1 packs a 3500mAh battery with support for 18W fast charging.

  Nokia 8.1
Display 6.18-inch (15.70cm) PureDisplay
Full HD+ (2246 x 1080)
18.7:9 aspect ratio
420ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 710
8 x Kryo 360 CPU
10nm manufacturing process
GPU Adreno 616
RAM 4GB LPPDDR4x
Storage 64GB e-MMC 5.1
Expandable up to 400GB
Cameras Front camera: 20MP

Rear camera:
12MP f/1.8 aperture primary sensor
13MP depth sensor
OIS + EIS
Dual Hi-Cri flash

Battery 3500mAh
18W fast charging
Audio 3.5 mm headphone jack
Single speaker with smart amplifier
Nokia OZO surround sound capture
Connectivity LTE Cat. 6, 2CA, L+L, VoLTE, VoWiFi
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 5.0
GPS/AGPS+GLONASS+Beidou
IP Rating None
Sensors mbient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer (G-sensor), E-compass, Gyroscope, Fingerprint sensor (rear), NFC
Software Android 9 Pie
Android One
Dimensions 154.8 x 75.76 x 7.97 mm
180 g
Colors Blue/Silver, Steel/Copper, Iron/Steel

Camera

Nokia 8.1

The Nokia 8.1 sports a 12MP primary sensor with f/1.8 aperture and 1.4 micron pixel size combined with a 13MP depth sensor with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). The Zeiss optics are combined with some AI smarts like automatic scene detection and professional portrait shots, and Nokia’s Pro Camera goodness as well as Dual-Sight mode that allows you to simultaneously shoot and stream from both the cameras.

The phone, interestingly, allows you to capture 4K video at 30fps. Apart from hardware stabilization, there’s also EIS that would help in those videos.

On the front, there’s a 20MP adaptive selfie camera with pixel binning technology that helps you take better shots in dimmer conditions.

Android One

Nokia 8.1

Like other phones in HMD Global’s portfolio, the Nokia 8.1 is an Android One smartphone. It ships with Android 9 Oreo out of the box, and offers a clean, stock Android experience. With phones on Android 8.1 Oreo still launching in December 2018, HMD Global deserves big props for offering one of the most up-to-date Android experience on Nokia phones.

Android One certification means the smartphone will receive two years of guaranteed Android “letter” upgrades and three years of monthly security updates. Nokia 8.1 is also a part of the Android Enterprise Recommended program.

Gallery

Summary

The Nokia 8.1 sits pretty between the mid-range smartphone segment and the ‘flagship killers’. It’s a well-rounded smartphone that tries to punch above the specifications sheet thanks to Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor that aces the performance bit.

The cohesive experience and stylish design of the Nokia 8.1 makes me wonder if this is the best Nokia phone since HMD Global brought the brand home. You’d have to look hard to find an issue with this one, really.

The Nokia 8.1 comes in three color variants – Blue/Silver, Steel/Copper, and a new Iron/Steel combination – and will globally retail at 399 Euros ($450).

While the device is going on sale in the Middle East for 1499 UAE Dirhams this week, it is priced at ₹26,999 ($372) in India and will go on sale on Amazon.in and top offline retailers.