Motorola Droid Maxx 2 review

Fans of the Droid Maxx series finally have something to get excited about. After two years of waiting for a sequel, Verizon and Motorola finally teamed up again to release a worthy successor to its first Maxx, the Droid Maxx 2.

The Maxx 2 is actually a re-branded Moto X Play, which is a more affordable version of the Moto X Style. It features a good balance of mid-range and high-end specs. Since the Moto X Play isn’t available in the States, we welcomed the Maxx 2 with open arms.

At $384 (or $16 for 24 months) off contract, the Maxx 2 is not only competitively priced, it’s able to hold its own against other flagships.

Simple design

Motorola doesn’t make the flashiest phones in the world, but the company knows how to build quality handsets. Whether it’s an entry-level Moto E or the flagship-caliber Droid Turbo 2, Motorola always invests a lot of time in its craftsmanship.

The Droid Maxx 2 isn’t a flagship phone, so you won’t find a metal body or frame, but Motorola’s choice of materials give it a premium look and feel.

The back has an etched pattern with a soft rubber-like texture, which offers fantastic grip.

The back has an etched pattern with a soft rubber-like texture, which offers fantastic grip with none of the slipperiness found on other phones. The silver frame adds to the premium look, even though it’s plastic disguised as metal.

The body has a nano coating that acts as a water repellent. The phone shouldn’t be mistaken for waterproof, but it will be able to survive accidental spills, splashes, and light rain.

A major highlight of the design has to be its size, which is 149.8 x 78.0mm. The iPhone 6S Plus is 158.2 x 77.9mm, which is much bigger. Considering that both phones have massive 5.5-inch screens, the Maxx 2 has a clear advantage. It’s a lot easier to use and hold one-handed.

The downside is that the Maxx 2 is thicker. It’s actually 7.6mm at the sides, but the rounded back pushes it to 9.2mm at its thickest point. In comparison, the iPhone 6S Plus is only 7.3mm thick. However, the Maxx 2’s rounded back gives you the impression that it’s thinner than it actually is.

Although Motorola didn’t open up its Moto Maker customization engine for the Maxx 2, the removable back can be swapped out for a different color, which is arguably a benefit because you can change it any time you want.

Looking at the front of the phone shows speakers at the top and bottom that could easily be mistaken for stereo sound. Unfortunately that’s not the case, as the speaker phone and media playback sounds will only fire through the bottom speaker. The top speaker is reserved for in-ear phone calls.

Fantastic display and performance

Mid-range phones usually come with a below-average screen to keep the price down. However, the Maxx 2 sports a generous 5.5-inch 1080p screen, which equates to a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. This is the sweet spot, since it offers the perfect balance between viewing experience and battery life.

The screen is an LCD panel instead of the traditional AMOLED screen that we’re accustomed to on past Motorola phones. As such, it’s technically not as energy-efficient, but the battery size more than makes up for that. Although the colors don’t pop as much as they would on an AMOLED screen, the Maxx 2 looks sharp and viewing angles are very good. Plus, it performs well in sunlight, which is usually the case with LCD panels.

The back has an etched pattern with a soft rubber-like texture, which offers fantastic grip.

The Droid Maxx 2 features the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor. Although a mid-range chip, it’s more than adequate for just about anything you can throw at it. Videos and games play smoothly, and I didn’t notice any stuttering or lag when navigating the user interface or opening and closing apps.

Internal storage is limited to 16GB, but the included MicroSD slot means that you can add up to an additional 128GB for all your pictures, music, and videos.

As mentioned before, this phone doesn’t have stereo sound, but at least the one speaker is front-firing. The sound is nothing to brag about, which is expected for a phone in this price range.

Crazy good battery

Battery life is becoming increasingly important because so many phones continue to fail to last through an entire day. Motorola has been a leader in battery life ever since the company introduced the Droid Razr Maxx back in 2012.

The Maxx 2 sports a whopping 3,760mAh battery, which is rather large for a phone of this size. The similar-sized iPhone 6S Plus only has a 2,750mAh battery, and the larger Galaxy Note 5 features a 3,000mAh battery. As such, the Maxx 2 is one of the most dominant phones in terms of battery life.

In our battery rundown test in which we play continuous video while the phone is connected to 4G LTE (not Wi-Fi) and the display is set to about 60 percent brightness, the Maxx 2 performed spectacularly. It went from 100 percent to 0 percent in 11 hours and 4 minutes. How does this translate in real life? Motorola promises 48 hours, which is not out of the realm of possibility with moderate use. Last weekend, I went from Friday morning well into Sunday without charging it once. Power users are likely to be limited to 30-36 hours, but even that’s phenomenal.

When it comes to most smartphones, you begin to panic when you hit 30 percent battery, but 30 percent on the Maxx 2 is like 80 percent on most other phones.

On top of the amazing battery life, you also get quick charging capability, or as Motorola calls it, “turbo power.” That’s just another term for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0.

On top of the amazing battery life, you also get quick charging.

If you do find yourself in a pinch, you can juice up pretty darn fast using a quick charger. Starting from 0 percent, our tests showed that the Maxx 2 will charge to 25 percent in just 20 minutes, 50 percent in 45 minutes, and 100 percent in 2 hours. This means that you can grab 12 hours of life after just 20 minutes of charging, or about 24 hours after just 45 minutes.

The downside is that a quick-charging compatible charger doesn’t come in the box. You can buy one directly from Motorola, or any third-party charger will work, as long as it’s certified with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 standard.

Unfortunately, wireless charging isn’t onboard, but you won’t miss it with battery life like this.

Average camera

Motorola has never blown anyone away with its cameras, but the company has improved greatly over the past couple of years. The Droid Maxx 2 sports a 21-megapixel main rear camera along with a 5-megapixel front-facing lens. When you consider the rear cameras on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are 12-megapixels and the Galaxy S6 sports 16-megapixels, this is very generous for a phone in this price range.

However, it’s not all about the megapixels. Megapixels only make it easier for you to crop images, but none of that matters if the quality is subpar. The Maxx 2 handles brightly lit situations very well, but the lack of optical image stabilization shows up in low-light shots, in which a decent amount of noise is present. There is a Night Mode, which does cut down on the noise, but at the expense of lowering the megapixel count down to 3.7. Ouch.

The camera software itself is very minimal with limited controls. It’s meant to be a simple point and shoot. In fact, it’s so simple, that you can tap anywhere on the display to capture a shot. For those who like to tweak things, there is a drag to focus with exposure control option.

Although it has a high megapixel count, the Maxx 2 cannot record 4K video. This isn’t going to be a big deal for most people, though. It can record up to 1080p (1920 x 1080) at 30 frames per second, which is more than enough.

The front-facing camera doesn’t include flash, but the display can be used for the same purpose. There is also a Best Shot mode that will automatically pick out the best selfie photo from a series of shots, but I was unable to get that to work.

Useful Motorola software

The Droid Maxx 2 runs Android Lollipop 5.1.1 out of the box, which is a bummer since the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update has been available for over a month. However, Motorola and Verizon promise that the Marshmallow update is coming very soon.

What separates Motorola from other Android manufacturers is its software on top of Android. While other manufacturers continue to muck up Android with a different look and useless apps, Motorola preserves the pure Android experience and includes some very useful features.

New for this year is Moto Loop, which again, shows Motorola’s prowess in offering stuff that fits into your everyday life. This app is the perfect way to keep track of each family member’s location and also offers the ability to send messages to each other. You can set certain locations where family members can auto check in. That way, you will be notified when your child gets to school and home, plus, you can always check the real-time location as well. If this isn’t enough, Moto Loop can also automatically control your Nest Thermostat or Philips Hue lights when you get home.

Other familiar apps like Voice, Display, Assist, and Actions are all back again.

  • Voice allows you to initiate commands without the need to wake your phone. You can ask questions, set reminders, play a song, and more.
  • Display shows your notifications without the need to turn on the full display. All you need to do is nudge your phone and they will appear.
  • Assist recognizes when you’re at home, driving, at work, or any other custom location. You can adjust the settings for when you’re at each location, like whether you want your text messages read to you, notifications silenced, and more.
  • Actions opens the camera with two flicks of the wrist.

Droid Zap, a past Verizon exclusive, is also back with the Droid Maxx 2. This app allows you to share photos and videos directly with other friends near you. It’s perfect for parties and group outings. It’s available on other Android phones, as well as iOS (Motorola Zap), so your friends don’t have to own a Droid-branded phone.


Motorola’s Limited Warranty for the Droid Maxx 2 covers fixes for one year. After that, you’ll have to pay for repairs or to extend your coverage. Motorola will not repair or replace phones that have water damage, either. Out-of-warranty repairs cost $175. You can read more about the limited warranty here.

The Maxx 2 has a special screen program, which isn’t as extensive as the ShatterShield promise Motorola offers on the Droid Turbo 2. Motorola will give you one free certified replacement within 2 years of purchase, if you break yours.

Motorola offers a few more paid options for those who need more protection. Moto Care Accident Protection covers accidents that affect the functionality of the device, like drops and spills. It comes with an additional 3 or 12 months of Motorola’s standard limited warranty. It’s more expensive, though, and prices vary widely based on how many months you signup for and what device you have. Prices are between $15 – $70 for 15 months of coverage or $25 – $100 for 24 months of coverage.

The $13-$20 Moto Care Extended Service Plan covers an additional 12 months of Motorola’s standard limited warranty, with an unlimited number of claims and low deductible.

You can read more here.


At $384 off contract, you’re going to have a hard time finding a better value smartphone. The OnePlus 2 and Asus Zenfone 2 are worthy contenders at $330 and $300 respectively, but neither one will work on Verizon Wireless or offer this kind of battery life.

On the other hand, the recently announced HTC One A9 will work on Verizon, but it costs $500. The best competitor might be the Google Nexus 5X, which sells for $400. It will work on Verizon, and it has a better camera, but its battery life can’t hold a candle to the Droid Maxx 2, and we don’t recommend it as a viable alternative, based on our terrible experience with the phone.

The Droid Maxx 2 is exactly what the Honda Accord is for automobiles. You get rock-solid performance with a near luxurious experience for a lot less money.

If you’re looking for a new phone that won’t break the bank and is built to last, you can’t go wrong with the Droid Maxx 2.


  • Amazing battery life
  • Solid Build
  • Large 5.5-inch screen
  • Near stock Android experience
  • Quick charging


  • Average camera
  • Mono sound
  • Quick charger costs extra

OnePlus X review

I recently had a conversation about the importance of design and good looks in the world of smartphones. One side questioned whether a phone should be judged on its looks at all, and the other said it should be a larger consideration when the manufacturer makes style a selling point.

Why is design important? Because the OnePlus X oozes striking visual appeal. The company even created two different versions, one of which has parts that take nearly a month to manufacture and are so delicate, only 20-percent of the yield are ever used. That’s an astounding attention to detail for a mass-produced phone.

OnePlus is proving that it can make an attractive phone that catches the eye. Most people bought its first two phones — the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 — because of they were powerful and inexpensive. But cheap isn’t sexy, and nobody wants to be a dull budget brand forever, regardless of how successful they are at it. The OnePlus X puts style first, but does it still deliver on specs and price? Is that mythical combination beauty, brains, and bargain $250 pricing even possible? Let’s find out.

Utterly gorgeous

The version we’re reviewing is the OnePlus X Onyx. It’s the standard version for sale everywhere, while the limited edition Ceramic version is only for certain markets. You’re not really missing out if you can’t get one, though, because the ceramic rear panel is a slightly different color, and the edges are more sharp than curved. The specs are also identical.

It’s possible to use it with one hand, but the OnePlus X is so smooth it feels like juggling a wet fish.

That’s Gorilla Glass you see reflecting all the light and collecting fingerprints, and it’s on the front and rear of the OnePlus X. This isn’t a new approach to making a premium phone. Sony, Samsung, Apple, and others have all done it. That’s not a dig, either. They all double up on glass because the final product look beautiful. The OnePlus X is no exception.The OnePlus X has a metal frame with a subtle finned effect running all the way round, which is broken up by a volume rocker, sleep/wake key, notification alert slider control, and Nano SIM card tray. On the base of the phone is a pair of speaker grills (only one of which actually provides any sound), and the Micro USB charging port; the headphone socket is on the top. The phone is very slim, and very slippery. It even manages to slide around over seemingly flat, level tabletops, so it really needs a case — and OnePlus includes a clear silicone one inside the box — although it’s a shame to wrap it up because it’s so pretty on its own.

Then we come to the size. The OnePlus X has a 5-inch screen, and it’s a very compact phone, with a footprint smaller than the Nexus 5. Maybe I’ve been spoiled with overly large phones recently, but the OnePlus X feels small. Not restrictively diminutive, but undersized for many tasks we enjoy using our phones for today. The rounded edges don’t provide much grip either. It’s possible to use it with one hand, but the OnePlus X is so smooth it feels like juggling a wet fish.

The pretty things we desire most are always compromised. That piece of designer clothing you want probably only comes in a certain (usually too small) size, and even though that Ferrari will fit in my garage, the doors won’t open once it’s in because they’re so long and it’s already so wide. If you’re regularly willing to put up with compromises like this, then you’ll revel in the joy of owning something beautiful. The OnePlus X is gorgeous, but that’s not really a solid reason to buy one.

AMOLED screen impresses

If you do buy a OnePlus X, the first thing you’ll see is the gorgeous AMOLED screen, full of rich, deep colors and impenetrable blacks. Put a black wallpaper on the screen, and the display disappears against the black glass bezels. Despite not making a bezel-less phone, OnePlus has done an impressive job of camouflaging the edges. Video looks excellent, and even when you put it alongside the LG V10, it stands up extremely well. If anything, the screen looks sharper, thanks to the smaller size and 1080p resolution. I watched video at around 35 percent brightness, and it was superb.

The gorgeous AMOLED screen is full of rich, deep colors and impenetrable blacks.

The OnePlus X has Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop) installed, and it’s covered by OnePlus’s own OxygenOS interface skin. Like the OnePlus 2, it’s barely distinguishable from Google’s stock version of Android, with only a slightly revised drop down notification panel and the slide-in Shelf tray to differentiate it at first glance. The shelf gathers together oft-used apps and contacts, plus you can add widgets normally found on the home screens. It’s neat, and taking a few minutes to customize the experience is worthwhile. OxygenOS is reliable, just like it is on the OnePlus 2.OnePlus takes barebones approach very seriously. Even the OnePlus camera app has an icon that looks almost the same as Google’s own app. The total lack of bloatware means you’ll need to choose your own music player — only Play Music and a file explorer do the job as standard — and there’s no photo gallery app outside the camera app itself and Google Photos. You’ll need to diligently set up your new OnePlus X before use.


Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

OnePlus has enabled the FM radio and come up with its own app. Radio on a smartphone makes good sense, it’s continuous music that doesn’t use any data, or store any tracks on the device itself. The app is colorful and supports bands from all over the world, plus there’s only a single button to scan and select stations. There’s no RDS feature though, and you have to have the headphones plugged in to use the app, but it has an option to use the internal speaker to listen. Through the headphones, it sounds great, but the speaker is poor quality, and very tinny.

Acceptable performance for the price

The processor driving the OnePlus X is the trusty Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 with 3GB of RAM. No, it’s not the newest processor out there, but it does a good job. If you want to play a few ordinary games, send messages, watch video, browse the Web, and post to social networks — It does all these things without hesitation.

For $250, there’s almost nothing that can touch the OnePlus X in terms of style or power.

Put it through some benchmark tests, and the figures are disappointing compared to the more powerful OnePlus 2. Multi-core for Geekbench 3 is 2,519, Quadrant returned 23,363, and 3DMark’s Slingshot ES 3.0 gave a 706 score. These scores are higher than the Zuk Z1 we tested recently, which also has the Snapdragon 801 with 3GB of RAM, but runs Cyanogen’s version of Android. Put up against each other, there’s nothing to separate them in the real world.Playing the game Riptide GP2 with all the settings maxed out did slow the phone down, but not so much that the game wasn’t playable. However, reduce the shadow detail, and the overall speed improved considerably. Danmaku Unlimited 2 with the HD graphics mode on performs flawlessly, but the phone did get pretty warm. It also highlighted that if you finger strays off the display and onto the Android buttons below, it’s easy to suddenly exit a game by accident.

If you’re expecting OnePlus 2 power in a smaller, better-looking package, this phone will disappoint. The chip does the job, but it’s not so lightning fast or graphically capable it’ll run and do anything thrown at it. For the money, it’s acceptable, but the use of an older processor is definitely one of the corner cutting measures employed to capture that low $250 price.

Camera for the casual photographer

A 13-megapixel camera is on the rear, and an 8-megapixel selfie cam sits above the screen. This combination is almost as tried-and-tested as the Snapdragon 801, the performance is similarly middle of the road, and another aspect where the target end-price has dictated the specs.

Related: 10 great smartphones you can buy for $400 or less

The camera takes good photos in most normal situations, and colors stand out in well-lit daytime shots, but little tweaks are needed to bring out the best when skies are dull. There’s no optical image stabilization like there is on the OnePlus 2, or manual control, but it does have a super-fast autofocus.

However, that’s negated by the annoying processing pause every time you snap a picture. It’s just a second or two, but it’s a pain, and makes you second guess when the X is actually capturing the photo. It’s almost certainly a software issue, and one we hope will be fixed soon. Outside of this, the pictures it produced looked good, despite the United Kingdom’s gloomy weather making it impossible to test it out in sunlight.

OK battery life, but it has U.S. LTE band issues

By their very nature, slim, light phones have small batteries. The OnePlus X has a 2,525mAh cell, but even with a mixture of video, gaming, and normal app use, it happily lasted the day, with around 10 percent left on the bar when it came to recharge at night. No, it’s not amazing battery life, but for the size of the phone it’s decent.

Related: 18 waterproof Android phones for rainy days

Other features we liked include a MicroSD card tray that can alternatively take another SIM card, but the lack of NFC and a fingerprint sensor is annoying. That means no Android Pay for OnePlus X owners. The phone is also missing some 4G LTE bands necessary for complete coverage in the United States, a consideration you should definitely take into account before buying. It will work on T-Mobile and AT&T, but even on those carriers, your LTE coverage may be spotty.


OnePlus has different warranty programs for specific countries. It recently added a plan for the U.S. and Canada, as well as Europe and India.

The European plan doesn’t yet cover the OnePlus X, but it will soon, the company says. The existing plan goes through Simplesurance and covers accidental damage and liquid damage. You can get 12 months of protection for €40 or 24 months for €65.

OnePlus uses On-Guard plans by Assurant in the U.S. and Canada. The plans already cover the OnePlus X, and you have the option of plans that cover ESC (Extended Service Coverage) and ADH (Accidental Damage from Handling). ESC provides replacement coverage for hardware failures due to manufacturer defects, and ADH, as the name implies, covers drops, liquid spills, and cracks. Below is the pricing for all the plan options:

For USA (Prices in USD)

Plan Coverage OnePlus 2 OnePlus X
On-Guard 12 12 months ESC $20 $20
On-Guard Plus 18 6 months ESC + 18 months ADH $65 $50
On-Guard Plus 24 12 months ESC + 24 months ADH $80 $60

For Canada (Prices in CAD)

Plan Coverage OnePlus 2 OnePlus X
On-Guard 12 12 months ESC $25 $25
On-Guard Plus 18 6 months ESC + 18 months ADH $85 $70
On-Guard Plus 24 12 months ESC + 24 months ADH $110 $85

The Indian plan isn’t set up for the OnePlus X, yet, and there’s no official stance on when it will arrive, but we expect it will soon. You can read about the plan for the OnePlus 2 here.


At just $250, the OnePlus X is one of the best-looking phones you can buy, and people will imagine it costs twice or even three times that amount. The processor and specs give its game away, but the addition of the AMOLED screen puts it ahead of stupidly cheap and less attractive alternatives.

Its double glass design is fragile and flawed, though, and the lack of NFC and Android Pay will put people off, along with the cut-down LTE band support in America. Then there is the annoying invitation system, which makes it really hard to buy one. Although the process is less annoying here, it’s still irritating that it exists at all. In the U.K., the price is also competitive at £200, and the phone supports all local 4G LTE bands.

If all you’ve got to spend is $250, there’s almost nothing that can touch the OnePlus X in terms of style or power. The only alternatives at that price are the Moto G and various Windows Phones. Buy it, and you’ll have the best phone for the money, but only if you don’t live in the USA. It’s exceptionally well built, the software’s infinitely better than some skinned version found on a ZTE or Huawei mid-range device, and the AMOLED screen is a stunner.

If you’re in the United States, we recommend ponying up for the $390 64GB OnePlus 2, $450 32GB Moto X Style Pure Edition, or $500 Google Nexus 6P. If you are on a tight budget and are okay with a weaker device, try the $220 16GB Moto G, but know that the Moto G’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor is much more limited and 16GB is not a lot of storage.


  • Gorgeous design
  • Low $250 price
  • Stunning AMOLED screen
  • Slim and lightweight
  • Almost stock Android OS


  • Limited U.S. LTE support
  • No NFC/Android Pay
  • You need an invitation to buy one
  • Slippery, fragile glass design


Review: Samsung Gear VR

Sub Title: About Face

In the space of three and a half years, virtual reality has matured from a long-dead relic of ’90s futurism to a platform that’s received billions of dollars of funding and attracted the best and brightest minds in the tech world. Three and a half years since John Carmack surprised journalists and developers at the E3 gaming expo with a duct-taped monstrosity that would eventually become the Oculus Rift. Three and a half years since Palmer Luckey, the kid who had built it, was at home thinking up the Kickstarter campaign that would jumpstart everything. And through those three and a half years, there hasn’t been a single consumer-grade VR product available in stores.


Samsung Gear VR


Learn How We Rate

An honest-to-goodness VR headset for $100. Works with current-generation Samsung Galaxy phones: Galaxy Note 5, S6 Edge+, S6, and S6 Edge. Tons of content; finding something cool to watch, play, or do isn’t a problem. Onboard sensors track movement and deliver very low latency. Samsung’s screen tech does wonders for viewability. Comfy to wear for hours on end.


Battery drain and overheating are still problems. While an improvement over developer versions, could still use some work. Requires a Samsung phone, so iOS and Windows users are out of luck. Don’t have a Galaxy phone? Add a few hundred dollars to the price.

Buy It Now   |  Samsung

That ends today, with the release of Samsung’s Gear VR, a mobile headset that the company developed in conjunction with Oculus. (In general terms: Samsung made the hardware with insight gleaned from Oculus’ own R&D process, and Oculus developed software to work with the Android ecosystem. In return, Samsung created custom displays for the Oculus Rift, the consumer version of which will come out in the first quarter of 2016.) By itself, the Gear VR is a piece of plastic with a headstrap, a couple of lenses, and an onboard motion sensor. Paired with a Samsung phone, however, it becomes the most robust VR system you can have until dedicated desktop systems arrive next year.

The thing is, this first honest-to-goodness VR solution is really the tenth. Since last year, there have been two “Innovator Editions” of the Samsung Gear VR released—one that worked only with the Galaxy Note 4, and a later one that worked with the Galaxy S6. There have been four prototypes for the Oculus Rift (two of which you could buy), two for PlaystationVR (nee “Project Morpheus”), and one for HTC Vive. And we’re not even counting the ecosystem of cheaper, Google Cardboard-like solutions that’s lurking out there on the depths of Amazon, or the many, many crowd-funded HMDs still in development.

But while WIRED, and many other outlets, have been covering all of these prototypes and the experiences they make possible, people simply haven’t been able to have those experiences. Virtual reality is famously indescribable; I can write all day about what it’s like to descend into the sea in a shark cage, or hang out with a lonely hedgehog, or walk through the streets of Liberia, or sit in a fake room and watch real Netflix on a giant fake TV. Until you do it yourself, though, it’s all just words.

Coming as it does on the heels of The New York Times’ grand Google Cardboard experiment, the Gear VR represents much more than just a product. It’s a play to bring VR into the zeitgeist not just conceptually, but experientially. At $99—half the price of the original Innovator Edition—it’s effectively a stocking stuffer for the holiday season, depending on how expensive your stockings are.

So now it’s here, and it raises a brand-new question: How the hell do you review the thing? Yes, the headset is 19 percent lighter; yes, the touchpad has new contouring and a new button; yes, the volume rocker has moved more toward the front. But incremental improvements mean just about nothing if the result isn’t a compelling experience. So screw the changes—let’s just talk about what the damn thing is, how you use it, and if you need it. (Spoiler: Yes!)

Jacking In

For all of VR’s historical barriers to entry, they all boil down to one: what happens when you take a headset out of the box. Making this an intuitive experience was absolutely paramount. All you need to do is connect the phone to the headset cradle via the micro-USB port, and snap it in place. A selector switch inside accounts for the size difference between the S6 line and the Note line (and yes, you must use a current-generation Samsung Galaxy Note or Edge phone). The Oculus Store launches automatically, and you’re up and running. Or, rather, up and browsing. There are currently more than 100 games, apps, and “experiences” available in the store—many of them free—and Max Cohen, Oculus’ head of mobile, says that there are are least 40 more coming in the next couple of months. And many of those apps are content catalogs themselves: In Oculus Video alone, you can stream Vimeo and Twitch, watch trailers, purchase dozens of movies, or sideload your own—then watch them in a huge, silent virtual theater. Don’t look now, but your next three-hour flight just became a private matinee screening.

If you’d rather browse non-virtually, you can launch the Oculus app on your phone and scroll through the offerings. If you try to launch any of them, however, the phone will prompt you to connect it to the Gear VR.

Oculus has managed to reduce latency to under 20 milliseconds, which makes things feel stable, responsive, and comfortable.

Comfort and ease of input have long been concerns for VR hardware manufacturers, and Samsung has clearly spent some time honing them both. On the top of the headset, a rotary dial lets you adjust focus; while glasses will fit in the headset, and don’t prove to be a hindrance beyond getting the headset on and off, people with lightweight prescriptions might be better served taking their glasses off and relying on the focus knob. A layer of soft foam layer cushions 99 percent of any part of the Gear VR that touches your face; the only unlined part is a centimeter-long gap where the bridge of your nose might hit. That only proved to be uncomfortable if I was lying on my back, or had my head tilted all the way back.

Speaking of a tilted-back head, this seems as good a time as any to make one very important distinction. Mobile VR is, by nature, unable to deliver what’s known as “positional tracking.” Desktop systems like the Oculus Rift use external cameras to track your headset in space, and then translate its movements and positions into virtual environments. That’s what allows you to crouch behind a virtual table, or peek around a virtual boulder, or look under a virtual desk by making those movements in real life—crouching, leaning, bending. But there’s currently no way to bring positional tracking to mobile VR. You can move your head along rotational axes—swiveling in a chair or looking up and down—but you can’t move your (virtual) head in (virtual) three-space. If you stand up while wearing the Gear VR and take a step forward, nothing in your display changes; that disconnect between your eyes and your balance system can lead to some discomfort, so keep in mind that for now mobile VR is a seated-only experience.

Anyway. On the right side, a cross-shaped touchpad allows for four-way navigation, with a small tap-to-select sensor at the center of the cross. A small oval “back” button sits about a half-inch above the touchpad, and a volume rocker is about an inch in front—nearly all the way up to the phone cradle. All of the controls are easily accessible, but just separated enough to avoid unintentional button presses. You can also pair a Samsung or third-party Bluetooth controller with the phone, which comes in handy for some of games, particularly the old-school titles you can play in the Arcade app, stand-up cabinets and all.

Oculus Keynote ArcadeClick to Open Overlay Gallery

Beyond the primary headstrap that attaches at the sides of the Gear VR, there’s also a top strap that you can affix between the back of the headstrap and the top of the device. The headset is light enough that you don’t need it for support, but it can come in handy if your hair makes things a little slippery. (With a shaved head, I never needed it, but I did find that the Gear VR had enough of a weight savings over its Innovator Edition predecessor that going top-strapless felt better for longer.)

The two concerns that I had about the Gear VR in earlier versions, battery drain and overheating phones, have largely been mitigated. An hour of solid use hits my Note 5 for anywhere from 15-20 percent. Only once have I gotten a warning to disconnect the phone before it gets too hot, and it was after nearly two hours of intense play of the bomb-defusing game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

Differences on Display

OK, so you got a Google Cardboard in the mail. You can slap your iPhone in there, and it was free. Why would you consider upgrading?

A few reasons, and they’re all benefits of Oculus and Samsung partnering up on this thing. For one, every other mobile headset—whether Cardboard or something like it—relies solely on your phone’s accelerometer and gyroscope to track your head’s movement. The Gear VR has a dedicated onboard sensor that takes 1000 samples per second, which significantly lowers the delay between your head’s movement and seeing your virtual surroundings change accordingly. That delay, known as “latency,” is one of the major culprits behind VR nausea; while it can still plague mobile systems, Oculus has managed to reduce latency to under 20 milliseconds, which makes things feel stable, responsive, and comfortable. I’ve regularly worn the Gear VR for a couple of hours at a clip—whether watching Netflix, wandering among Gaugin paintings at London’s Cortauld Gallery, browsing through thousands of panoramic 360-degree images, or or exploring the peaceful puzzle-strewn islands of the game Land’s End—without the slightest bit of discomfort.

Screenshot-2015-11-17_02-14-04-PMClick to Open Overlay Gallery
Ustwo Games

While only working with a small selection of phones might seem like a drag, it circumvents the difficulties of developing for a fragmented OS like Android.

Second, while only working with a small selection of phones might seem like a drag, it circumvents the difficulties of developing for a fragmented OS like Android. That narrow scope allowed Oculus to ignore the needs of other phones, and instead squeeze everything they could out of Samsung’s mobile hardware. Then there’s the screen: while pixel density is important (and the Note 5 in particular boasts a gorgeous 2560 x 1440 display that makes for crisp images, even when halved for stereoscopic purposes), the company’s AMOLED screens allow for what’s called “low-persistence” display. That means that each pixel actually spends only 30 percent of its time illuminated—by flashing the display on and then off again, it drastically reduces the motion blur when you turn your head quickly. On other mobile headsets, the image can appear to smear across your vision. Not so in the Gear VR. Through hours and hours of use, my only moments of discomfort came from 360-degree videos (which some people argue are a speed bump for VR innovation).

Is it Worth It?

It was last September when I first put on the first Innovator Edition of the Gear VR , and I remember my reaction as clearly as if it happened yesterday: this thing has no right to feel this good. Before that, I’d dismissed “smartphone VR” as impossibility for at least a couple of years. But that original version of the Gear VR changed my mind. And in the intervening year, the two companies have streamlined the hardware while building a software experience that manages to usher people into the age of immersion stumble-free.

So yes. Good VR is here. After three and a half years, I can’t believe I’m finally saying it, but it is. It’s in Best Buy, it’s on Amazon, it’s in T-Mobile and AT&T stores, it’s just fucking here. If you have a Samung phone already, spending $99 on it is a no-brainer. There’s nothing like it, and unless you have a high-end gaming PC or a Playstation 4—and then spend more than $300 on the VR system to go with them—it’s your best shot at VR for the next year or more. If you’re an iOS user, though, your choice gets tougher. Samsung hasn’t officially announced any headset/phone bundles, but I’d be surprised if some deals don’t come along that let you buy in at a discount and use the phone as the VR version of an iPod Touch. After all, when VR’s your future, phones can be loss leaders.

Lenovo ZUK Z1 review

Want more battery life out of your phone? You’ll want the Zuk Z1

Unless you’ve got unlimited funds, or are happy to sign a contract in return for an up-front discount, price is a major contributing factor to your smartphone buying decision. The choice of reasonably priced, well-built, and well-configured phones has increased this year, and the Motorola X Style, OnePlus 2, and Nexus 5X are all compelling choices. Now there’s another to add to the list — but the name won’t be as familiar.

Available from: Zuk Mobile

The Zuk Z1 is Lenovo’s answer to the growing challenge from Xiaomi.

It’s the Zuk Z1, and the phone is Lenovo’s answer to the growing challenge from Xiaomi in China. Zuk is a Lenovo-backed, online-only phone manufacturer, and the Z1 is its first device. Unlike Xiaomi’s phones, Zuk will ship worldwide, and because the Z1 runs Cyanogen’s build of Android, it comes with Google Play and all associated apps installed. The price? Just $320. That’s a bit less than the majority of phones listed above, so what’s it like?

Unfussy, but still attractive design

The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the Z1 is the build quality, materials, and weight. It has an aviation-grade aluminum chassis with curved edges, sensibly placed buttons, and a neatly drilled speaker grill. The rear panel is made from shiny white plastic, and although doesn’t come close to matching the warm aluminum, isn’t terrible to look at or feel. It doesn’t flex or bend in odd places either, and the minimalist look — the camera lens, dual-LED flash, and a Zuk logo is all that breaks up the panel — is rather cool.

It’s a weighty little thing though, at 175 grams, part of which is due to the whopping 4,100mAh battery inside. We’ll come back to that later, but trust us, there’s no need to complain that it’s a non-removable cell. Around the front is a 5.5-inch, 1080p display, topped with an 8-megapixel selfie camera, and finished off with a rectangular home button beneath the screen.

It’s not a stunner, but it’s not unattractive; I really appreciate the lack of messy antenna bands across the back, and pleasing visual touches such as the chrome ring around the camera lens, and the deceptively slim screen bezels. On the side, the sleep/wake key is mounted below the volume controls, but was actually a little low for my liking. In the hand, it’s very much like holding the HTC One due to the rounded body and contoured rear panel — and that’s high praise in the smartphone world.

The display is bright and attractive, and I didn’t once think it’d benefit from having more pixels. In fact, it has a setting that I’d like to see on other devices. It’s called LiveDisplay, and it can automatically adjust the color temperature and brightness depending on the time of day, ensuring peak visibility and performance. It made quite a difference at night, and the display certainly seemed easier on the eyes when viewing it in half-light.

Fingerprint sensor and Snapdragon 801

Beneath the screen is a physical home button that houses Zuk’s U-Touch fingerprint sensor. It works just like any other, supports multiple fingerprints for different users, and is incredibly fast to react. It’s on par with the iPhone, due to a need to press the button so the screen wakes up, which makes it slightly slower than the OnePlus 2. However, it can also work in different ways. Aside from pressing it as usual with a home button, tapping it makes it work like a back button; this was a very handy, intuitive feature I used a lot. It can get flustered by an even slightly damp finger, however, and refuse to recognize you at all.

The Zuk Z1 is Lenovo’s answer to the growing challenge from Xiaomi.

Zuk has chosen the reliable if slightly dated Snapdragon 801 processor for the Z1. It’s not the latest chip from Qualcomm, but that does mean it’s not in danger of getting too hot, plus it runs at 2.5GHz — plenty powerful enough. The 3GB of RAM keeps the speed up, and the phone never once felt slow or “old.” Don’t forget, the 801 is still a very capable processor.

Running a few benchmark tests, the Z1 scored 2,275 on GeekBench 3’s multi-core test — around the same as the LG G3 — and 24,201 on Quadrant. Playing Groove Coaster and Love Live: School Idol Festival the phone didn’t break a sweat, and Colin McRae’s Rally was smooth and super fast. There are some app compatibility problems, but they’re few and far between. The popular benchmarking tool 3D Mark wouldn’t work, for example, but everything else including several of my more unusual go-to games for testing worked perfectly.

Cyanogen and an average camera

In China, the Z1 has its own version of Android installed with the ZUI skin over the top. I used this briefly before flashing the Cyanogen software and it was decent, although not very helpful outside China due to the lack of Google apps. This problem is fixed using Cyanogen, which has Google Play, Maps, Hangouts, Gmail, and all the rest pre-installed. Order the international version, where it comes pre-installed.

Despite the horror stories attached to Cyanogen on the OnePlus, it performed excellently on the Z1, and never suffered from crashes or other odd behavior. It looks very similar to stock Android, but with a fancy alphabetical list of apps in the app drawer. It’s based on Android 5.1.1, so all the security updates are in place, and the overall user experience is no different to a Nexus 5. The OS is also highly customizable, with many different themes, a dizzying array of pre-installed ringtones, and even my favorite LG phone feature, the double-tap to wake the screen hidden as an option in the menu.

The 13-megapixel rear camera takes attractive photos outside, and using it on sunny autumnal days in the city and the countryside produced results I was happy with, which could easily be improved with some editing. The f/2.2 aperture means bright sunlight can wash some photos out in varying conditions, and the transition can be quite drastic just by shifting the focal point around.

It’s not a fan of lowlight either, and nighttime pictures lack detail, even those taken under street or car lights. Show it a really dark scene, and there’s hardly any detail at all. Inside, things are better, but again only if there’s a good source of natural light.

Zuk uses Cyanogen’s camera app, which comes with an effective HDR mode, along with various preset scenes — acton, beach, landscape and so on — with a few live filters for good measure. There’s also a panorama mode. The standard editing tool in the gallery app provides the option to crop photos, add a few effects, and tweak the output. A personal favorite is the cool graduated image tool, which is like a more versatile edge focus that can produce some fun effects on the right picture.

Overall, the camera isn’t the best we’ve seen, and the OnePlus 2 performs better, particularly at night. However, shooting in the day can produce some great pictures, and I was pleased with those snapped around Canary Wharf in London on a sunny afternoon.

More than two days from the massive battery

Finally, we come to perhaps the Zuk Z1’s biggest plus, its giant, 4,100mAh battery. You can easily get two days of solid use with the Z1, and I got three days with careful use. Occasions where the battery died after two days included doing everything from GPS, games, and photos, to general email and messages. It’s a huge bonus to the Z1.

We’ll continue testing the phone with Bluetooth connections, and a wider range of use scenarios to find out its limitations, but at the moment, it’s one of the strongest performers in terms of battery life we’ve seen in a while. The downside is that the battery makes the phone thicker, and that it’s not removable, but there are many people out there who won’t care. Just a couple of other points to consider. There’s no expandable storage, but it does have 64GB of its own, there’s a dual-SIM slot, and the speaker is pretty terrible.

An honest smartphone

This year we’ve seen a wide range of excellent, and well-priced, smartphones go on sale. Each represents an excellent reason not to buy your next phone with a contract through a network, but to grab an unconnected device instead. Should you add the Zuk Z1 to your wish list?

While it’s undeniably a well-made, and decently specified device, it’s not grab-your-wallet-right-now cheap. The design is also really understated, and anyone wanting some flash for their money will probably be tempted to look elsewhere. However, the Z1’s battery life is superb, the build quality excellent, and the software different enough to be cool.

The Z1 is an honest smartphone — it doesn’t try too hard, and comes out all the better for it — and it equals the OnePlus 2 as an almost willfully unfussy device. I quite like that, and if you’re keen to save $300 over buying one of Samsung’s or HTC’s space-age smartphones, the Z1 should be a strong contender for your money.


  • Metal chassis
  • Two days or more battery
  • Cyanogen Android software
  • Competitively priced


  • Average camera
  • Lacks visual excitement

Wileyfox Swift review


  • Super affordable
  • Advanced privacy controls
  • Removable battery


  • So-so battery life
  • Heavily skinned Android software
  • Inconsistent camera

Review Price £129.00

Key Features: Removable 2,500mAh battery; 13-megapixel rear camera; Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor; Cyanogen 12.1 OS; 5.0-inch, HD, IPS screenManufacturer: Wileyfox

What is the Wileyfox Swift?

The £129 Swift is Britain-based Wileyfox’s first ever smartphone. Like the OnePlus 2, Honor 7 and Moto G (2015) it aims to carve a share of the smartphone market by offering features traditionally seen on phones close to twice its price.

The other key feature is Cyanogen OS, a heavily skinned version of Android that also came with the OnePlus One last year. It promises “unparalleled customisation powers” and “enhanced security” and mostly delivers on that promise, too.

If you like loads of customisation and more control over your privacy then the Wileyfox is worth serious consideration, but its camera and battery life hold it back somewhat.

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Wileyfox Swift – Design and build

141 x 71 x 9.4mm dimensions, 135g weight, dual SIM

From the front the Wileyfox Swift has slightly boxy, monotone black design similar to most affordable handsets. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a slightly duller version of Motorola’s stellar Moto G (2015).

However, when you turn it on its back things begin to get a little more interesting. Unlike many of its competitors the Swift has a detachable backplate that grants access to the phone’s dual-sim, microSD and removable battery.


Wileyfox Swift reviewThe fact the battery is removable is in my mind a key positive for the Swift, as it let me carry around a spare power pack for my phone that I could swap in when the first died – my addiction to Peggle and CrunchyRoll means this happens fairly regularly.

I was also fairly enamoured with the Swift backplate’s slightly material feel. Rather than having the smooth plastic finish seen on most affordable handset, the Swift’s back and sides have a material finish.

The finish, combined with the phone’s reasonable 141 x 71 x 9.4mm dimensions and 135g weight, make the Swift comfortable to hold and noticeably easier to get a solid grip on than many competing handsets.


Wileyfox Swift reviewThe only issue we noticed with the design, is that the plate is slightly prone to picking up marks, particularly when hit with liquids. An accidental drop of water on the back left a noticeable mark that took a good day to disappear – despite several attempts to wipe it clean.

Wileyfox Swift – Display

5.0-inch, HD, 1280 x 720, 294ppi IPS

The Swift has a 5.0-inch, HD, 1280 x 720, 294ppi IPS display. A few years ago the presence of a 720p screen on an affordable handset would have been impressive, but now it’s fairly standard.

The specifications put the Swift’s display on a par with the £160 Moto G 2015 and slightly below the £125 Vodafone Smart Ultra 6, which comes with a Full HD 1080p screen.

Being honest, I’m slightly sad Wileyfox didn’t give the Swift an Full HD screen. While 720p is more than good enough for general smartphones and I never had any issues reading text or watching video on the Swift, the Swift looks a little fuzzy when compared to some rivals.

That said, I am still reasonably impressed with the Swift’s display. While it’s not the sharpest in town, Wileyfox has loaded the Swift with a nifty LiveDisplay screen calibration tool. The tool lets Swift user’s manually adjust the screen’s RGB and colour temperature (Kelvins).


Wileyfox Swift reviewRelated: These are the 7 best affordable smartphones you can buy

The ability to manually adjust the RGB level is a key positive as it means Swift users can set the display to meet their preference, though I can’t see too many users needing to take advantage of the feature.

Out of the box I found the Swift’s screen, while slightly oversaturated, is very good by budget handset standards. Colours look suitably realistic without being overly washed out and my only minor grievance is that whites have a tendency to take on a yellow tinge when viewed from an angle. The phone’s brightness maximum brightness is also astounding and during my tests the Wileyfox Swift easily outshined its key rival the Moto G (2015).


Wileyfox and Moto GThe Wileyfox Swift (left) has a much brighter screen than the Moto G (right)

The LiveDisplay also lets you set the Swift to automatically switch to optimise the screen for use in night and day settings.

While this sounds cool, I found in practice the feature just adjusts the screen to push the yellow end of the colour spectrum at night before relaxing it to a more neutral level during the day.

Wileyfox Swift – Software Cyanogen 12.1

The Swift’s most interesting feature is its custom Cyanogen operating system. Cyanogen is a heavily modified version of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. Wileyfox claims Cyanogen is more customisable and secure than the vanilla version of Android.

While it’s certainly true Cyanogen is more tweakable than the regular Android OS, the customisation features are a mixed bag. Some of the features, such as the ability to customise which application notifications appear on the lockscreen are useful, while others feel slightly superfluous.

Review Price £129.00

Wileyfox Swift – Software Cyanogen 12.1

The Swift’s most interesting feature is its custom Cyanogen operating system. Cyanogen is a heavily modified version of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. Wileyfox claims Cyanogen is more customisable and secure than the vanilla version of Android.

While it’s certainly true Cyanogen is more tweakable than the regular Android OS, the customisation features are a mixed bag. Some of the features, such as the ability to customise which application notifications appear on the lockscreen are useful, while others feel slightly superfluous.

See also: These are the 10 best Android smartphones on the market


Wileyfox Swift reviewThis is largely due to the rather confusing and slightly lacklustre theme system used by Cyanogen.

Cyanogen themes are accessed, downloaded and purchased via a Theme store. There are currently around 100 themes on offer, though more will likely appear in the near future as companies and people are free to create and flog their own custom themes on Cyanogen.

Cyanogen also has a Theme Chooser feature that lets people mix and match elements of themes on the store to create their own frankenstein skin.

While some people may think this sounds great, looking at what’s currently on offer, I found most of the themes are fairly pointless. Flipping through 15 of them, I found they generally did little more than change app icons, slightly rejig the UI and add a few custom widgets – none of which were very useful.

This isn’t necessarily a negative, after all the ability to tweak the UI is something I can see some buyers loving, even if I’m not too bothered about it myself. However, I am slightly concerned it’s going to hamper Wileyfox ability to update Cyanogen to run-on newer versions of Android – like the fast approaching final version of Android M.

This is because Wileyfox will have to tweek Cyanogen’s code to be compatible with the new Android version’s code – a process that will likely take weeks, if not months. Indeed, this was one of the issues with last year’s OnePlus One, which also used Cyanogen, and is one of the reasons why OnePlus has switched to its own skin for the OnePlus 2.

This will mean, as was the case with Amazon’s Fire series of devices, which also run on an OS based on Android, Swift users may miss out on useful performance boosting Android updates.


Wileyfox Swift reviewWhile I’m not totally won over by Cyanogen’s customisation features, I am impressed with its security upgrades. In the post-PRISM world where data protection and privacy are a concern Wileyfox has played a canny trick loading Cyanogen with a variety of useful security tools.

The best of these are Cyanogen’s Privacy Guard, PIN Scramble and Protected Apps services.

Privacy Guard is an app management service that can be accessed in the Swift’s settings. It lets you manually approve which apps can harvest data and which can’t.

PIN Scramble, meanwhile, is a clever feature that makes it harder for thieves, or annoying friends to guess your phone’s unlock code. It works by randomising how numbers are organised on the screen from the lock screen each time the phone wakes from sleep – meaning the code can’t be reconstructed using smudge’s on the screen.

The Protected Apps feature adds a further layer of protection to data stored on the Swift by letting you create password protected application folders. The feature lets you set different passwords for each folder.

For me this is a great for two reasons. First as it stop thieves who successfully crack your unlock code accessing sensitive applications, like work email. Second, for those with young kids or siblings, it lets you stop them accessing inappropriate services – like violent games or titles that let you make in-app purchases.

Wileyfox Swift – Performance

1.2GHz, 64-bit, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 8916 CPU, Adreno 306 GPU and 2GB of RAM

The Wileyfox Swift features some reasonably impressive hardware for a £129 handset. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 410 processor, Adreno 306 GPU and 2GB of RAM, putting it on a par with the 16GB Moto G (2015).

Interestingly, despite featuring the same hardware the Swift’s benchmarks are slightly below the Moto G’s.

On Geekbench, which measures a phone’s overall performance, the Swift enjoyed 1,335 multi-core score. On the gaming focused 3DMark benchmark (tested on Icestorm Unlimited) the Swift scored 4,310. By comparison the Moto G boasts a 1,636 multi-core score on Geekbench and 4,418 score on 3DMark.


Wileyfox Swift reviewPerformance in real world use is solid but not flawless. Apps open in milliseconds, video streams seamlessly, and web browsing on 4G is a smooth lag-free experience. Every now and then, though, the phone would stall and then inexplicably jump to the bottom of the menu when quickly scrolling through the Swift’s app tray.

On a few very rare occasions the Swift also would unexpectedly exit games I was playing – though being fair to Wileyfox during my week with the device this only happened after prolonged gaming sessions.

Review Price £129.00

Wileyfox Swift – Camera

13-megapixel rear with AF, Samsung S5K3M2 BSI and dual LED Flash, 5-megapixel front

A few years ago, if you showed me the Wileyfox Swift’s camera specs and price I’d have jumped out of my seat with excitement.

But with Motorola having launched the Moto G – a budget smartphone with camera specs close to matching the £500 Nexus 6 – mere weeks ago, the appearance of a 13-megapixel sensor on the Swift isn’t quite as special as it might have been. Moreover, while the Wileyfox is competent enough, the Moto G is in a different league.


Wileyfox Swift reviewCyanogen OS features a custom camera application that adds a wealth of preset camera modes designed to optimise the camera for specific lighting conditions as well as various Instagram-like filters.

Highlights include high dynamic range (HDR), action and night modes and aqua, sepia and posterize filters.

For avid photographers, it also has manual controls for the camera’s for things like the exposure, white balance and ISO.

Shooting in regular light conditions with the camera in automatic, photos taken on the Swift are impressive. While not on a par with flagship smartphone cameras, photos were mostly usable and adequate for sharing on social media.


Wileyfox Swift review 2image:

Wileyfox Swift review 1However, moving into low light, the Swift’s camera did begin to struggle. Despite featuring a Samsung-made back-illuminated sensor (BSI), the Swift’s camera performance rapidly declines in low light.


Wileyfox Swift reviewUsing the camera in a dimly lit bar with the flash turned off, shots taken on the Swift generally looked dirty and suffered from pixelation, though this is hardly a problem exclusive to the Swift.

But the Swift suffers in comparison to the Moto G (2015). As the shots below show, the Swift sometimes struggles to pick the right while balance in scenes. Below you can see how it gives this shot a heavy blue-ish tone, while the Moto G captures a far more faithful shot with a correct, neutral tone.


Wileyfox Swift test shotTaken on the Wileyfox Swift with the camera set to automaticimage:

Moto G 2015 testTaken on the Moto G (2015) with the camera set to automatic moments laterOverall, while the Wileyfox can take good photos in some conditions, it isn’t as consistent or reliable as the Moto G. If taking decent photos is a high priority for you, the Moto G is the obvious choice.

Wileyfox Swift – Battery Life

Removable 2,500mAh battery

Battery life is one area all smartphones struggle with. To date, I’m yet to find a handset that can consistently last two days moderate use off one charge. Sadly, the Swift doesn’t change this.

Wileyfox lists the Swift’s battery as offering users eight hours life off one charge. Burning the battery by constantly looping a video file stored on the Swift, with Wi-Fi off and the screen brightness set to 70%, the handset lasted seven hours on my first test, eight on my second and seven hours, 45 mins on my third.

The score is disappointing and puts the Swift behind the Moto G, which lasted nine hours running the same test.


Wileyfox Swift reviewWIth real world use the the Swift’s battery life proved at best average and I had to charge it every day.

Regular use entailed listening to music on the way to and from work, regularly checking my email and social media feeds, making and taking a few calls and watching a cheeky episode or two of Gilmore Girls on Netflix – I regret nothing, it’s a good show.

With heavier use however, the Swift’s battery outright leaks its charge. Playing games on the Swift I found its battery regularly as much as 20% per hour.

Wileyfox Swift – Sound and call quality

Wileyfox made a big deal about Swift users’ ability to customise the phone’s sound levels using the custom AudioFX feature.

The feature lets Swift owners optimise the phone’s sound levels for specific genres of music. AudioFX presets include everything everything from Rock and Metal settings, to classical, folk, R&B and Jazz settings.

For true audiophiles AudioFX also has separate Bass and Virtualizer digital dials the user can access to customise the presets, as well as full manual controls that can be used to create custom sound profiles.


Wileyfox Swift reviewTesting the feature, I found it was fairly useful when paired with headphones, but less so on the phone’s internal speaker which as well as not being all too loud, has a tendency to distort when cranked. The speaker also sounds slightly tinny, even when the bass is manually cranked using AudioFX.

Outside of this, call quality was fairly good and both the phone’s speaker and microphone were good enough for me to hear and speak to people using the Swift in busy, and loud, London streets hassle free.


Wileyfox Swift review

Should I buy a Wileyfox Swift?

If you’re a privacy focused buyer on a budget, the Swift is one of the best sub-£150 smartphones on the market and will meet most of your needs. But that’s quite a specific niche and for everyone else there are better options out there.

The Motorola Moto G (2015) is the obvious alternative. While the Wileyfox Swift has a brighter, more impressive screen, it can’t match the Moto G for battery life or camera quality. Indeed, the Moto G has a much better, more consistent camera.

Moreover, the Cyanogen OS-skin means it’s unlikely the Swift will receive timely updates to new versions of Android – another problem the Moto G doesn’t have.


It’s a good first attempt from a new entrant to the phone market, but the Wileyfox can’t quite match the best budget phones just yet.

Hands on: Ubik Uno

Design by mob rule: Ubik’s Uno is quite literally the phone you asked for

For less than $350, the Ubik Uno is a bargain, but it’s next phone will be even better because you’ll have a say in its design.

A Miami-based company called Ubik wants to turn the idea that massive corporations like Samsung, Apple, and Google know best on its head, at least when it comes to the smartphone in your pocket. Ubik’s first attempt to do so is the Uno, a high-end phone that has most of the powerful specs you’d expect to see on a flagship phone from Apple or Samsung, but for the price of a mid-range phone.

Ubik already has a number of working prototypes and is ready to dive into production with the help of its Korean manufacturing partner, but it’s starting out on Kickstarter to build a community of phone lovers who want more say in the phones they use every day.

Meet the Ubik Uno

Some companies play around with user expectations, and manipulate press renders to show screens with smaller bezels, when in reality they’re just cleverly hidden. However, when Ubik says its phone has no bezels, it means that it has no bezels. A one-piece aluminum frame blends right into the 5.5-inch Full HD screen. There are bezels at the top and bottom of the phone, just like any other, but the screen is unimpeded on either side.

It strikes a lovely slim figure, and the sturdy plastic back makes for a very appealing phone overall. The plastic is a solid, navy blue with a “spun” texture that reflects the light well and makes a that’ll-never-get-old record-scratching sound when you run a fingernail across it.


Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

A MediaTek MT6795 64-bit octa-core processor powers the phone, along with 3GB of RAM. Ubik told us that it passed on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 because of the overheating issue, adding that the MediaTek processor is more energy efficient, which suits its purposes better anyway. The Uno packs 64GB storage, so there’s no issue there, either. It’s running stock Android 5.1 Lollipop, so there’s no annoying bloatware or horrible skin on top of Google lovely OS.

The whopping 6-lens, 20-megapixel, auto-focus rear camera from Sony should take some phenomenal pictures, and it can record video in slow motion at 120fps. The camera sensor is quite big, so it bulges out a bit on the back of the thin phone, but that’s become standard practice these days. Even Apple’s iPhone 6 has a camera bulge. Meanwhile, the 8-megapixel camera on front of the phone should take some stellar selfies.

To round out the whole package, the Ubik Uno comes with a quick charger that has an LED light, so you know when it’s charged.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, ‘wow, that sounds like a really high-end phone. It must be super expensive,’ but it’s not. Ubik says the Uno will retail for $345, but it would have only cost you $280 on Kickstarter – if you got one of the first 250 phones. After that, the next 1,000 cost $300, and the rest of the preorders come in at $320.

“You’re getting a high-end phone for a great price,” Ubik’s USA Business Director Edgardo Jovet told Digital Trends.

You will design the next Ubik phone

Once Ubik ships out all its Uno phones, it’ll start chatting with the new community to learn about their experience with the device, and find out exactly what they want in the next Ubik phone. Unlike most companies that secretly survey a few thousand people about one small aspect of a phone, Ubik will send out a kind of build-your-own-phone rubric to its users. When all’s said and done, Ubik will go on to make the most popular design.

“The majority rules. We’ll make the phone the community chooses.”

“It’s more of a community,” Jovet said. “Our ultimate goal is that when the product comes out, that’s when we start talking with our community to build the next phone.”

He’s not kidding about the level of community involvement. Looking through a sample rubric that Ubik’s users will fill out, the company lists all the possible screen, processor, storage, color, camera, and other spec options that is has available, and you go from there.

Ubik will let you know if your dream phone is unrealistic — so if you want a super thin phone with a massive battery and a jumbo camera, Ubik will let you know that it isn’t physically possible to do that – and the price that it would cost for Ubik to make your design.

“The majority rules,” Jovet said. “We’ll make the phone the community chooses, and we’re open to making more than one design down the line.”

Why let the users choose?

The main criticism of democracy always seems to be that the plebeians don’t know what they want. Those in power know best, so they decide. Not so, says Ubik. In fact, the biggest companies often make the biggest mistakes.

There are some good industry examples to back up these claims. BlackBerry and Nokia chose to stick with alternative operating systems and turned their noses up at Google’s Android. Now neither company is a leader in the smartphone industry any more.

HTC thought it could rest on its laurels, but Samsung and LG caught up with superior phones. Even Apple, which hasn’t truly fallen down at all in the smartphone market, misjudged customer demand for bigger phones. International sales have increased now it makes the larger 4.7 and 5.5-inch iPhones.

“They thought they knew what the people wanted, but they were wrong,” Ubik Business Director Christian Areco said. “What would happen if BlackBerry made an Android phone when Messenger was huge? They’d still be a big player.”

“We want to be a different player in this industry,” he continued. “We don’t want to impose what we think.”

Ubik’s unique approach seems to be resonating with customers, at least on Kickstarter. The company’s campaign is already more than halfway to its $200,000 goal, and it’s still got a month left to rack up the rest. If you want to fund the Uno and get one for yourself, there are still a few $300 models left. Once those are gone, it’ll jump up to $320, but even at that price, it still looks like a bargain.


  • Flagship specs for less than $400
  • High-resolution camera
  • Sharp, bezel-free screen


  • It’s a Kickstarter campaign
  • No official carrier support

Asus Zenfone Selfie

Asus Zenfone Selfie

It’s somewhat surprising just how long it’s taken for phone manufacturers to really cotton onto the phenomena that is ‘selfies’. With its new Zenfone Selfie, Asus becomes one of the very few very few manufacturers to make a phone dedicated to the photographic self portait.

Like the HTC Desire Eye, the Asus Zenfone Selfie features matching front and rear cameras with dedicated flashes for both, making them truly adept at taking photos of you and your mates, you and the Taj Mahal, you and that funny looking dog, you and…

Asus Zenfone Selfie – Design

It would be easy to say the Zenfone Selfie is basically the Zenfone 2 with a fancier front camera, and it would also be very accurate.

Review Price free/subscription

Asus Zenfone Selfie

It’s somewhat surprising just how long it’s taken for phone manufacturers to really cotton onto the phenomena that is ‘selfies’. With its new Zenfone Selfie, Asus becomes one of the very few very few manufacturers to make a phone dedicated to the photographic self portait.

Like the HTC Desire Eye, the Asus Zenfone Selfie features matching front and rear cameras with dedicated flashes for both, making them truly adept at taking photos of you and your mates, you and the Taj Mahal, you and that funny looking dog, you and…

Asus Zenfone Selfie – Design

It would be easy to say the Zenfone Selfie is basically the Zenfone 2 with a fancier front camera, and it would also be very accurate.

Asus Zenfone SelfieThe two phones look essentially identical with their 5.5in screens, swirled metal bezel, curved plastic back and rear mounted buttons. There really is next to nothing distinguishing the two aside from the larger camera that sits in a slightly elongated front bezel.

This is no bad thing, though, as both are attractive phones. There’s none of the truly premium metal build quality of your iPhone 6, One M9 or Galaxy S6 but that’s why this is a much cheaper phone.

Instead you get an array of plastic backs in various fetching colours and finishes including a fairly convincing faux brushed metal.


Asus Zenfone SelfieThe back has a simple gentle curve to it that combined with its relatively modest 156.5 x 77.2 x 10.8 mm dimensions it feels nice and comfortable in the hand.

We’re not overly keen on the power button being on the top edge, especially when the volume buttons are on the back – it just feels inconsistent, but otherwise it seems to be an easy device to handle.

Like Samsung, Asus is sticking with touch buttons, rather than on screen buttons which makes for a bigger bezel but not so much so that it bothered us.

All told it’s a nice handset that feels about right considering its likely mid-range price.


Asus Zenfone Selfie

Asus Zenfone Selfie – Features

Inside the Zenfone Selfie is a Qualcomm MSM8939 Snapdragon 615 with 2/3GB of RAM, 16/32GB storage and a microSD slot. There’s no waterproofing, fingerprint reader or anything to new fangled here. Just solid mid-range specs.

The screen is an LCD panel with a 1080p resolution. That may not sounds all that impressive in this day and age but it’s a perfect bright, colourful panel with excellent viewing angles and, from what we could tell, deep blacks. It’s of course topped by Gorilla Glass.

One trick it has up its sleeve is that it is dual-SIM. It will also run Android 5.0 Lollipop and there’s an optional selfie Swing case that incorporates a metal arm that folds out to either act as a stand for hands-free selfies or as an extension to your arm for further away selfies – it’ll also be easier to grip, though you will of course need to use a timer mode to activate it.


Asus Zenfone Selfie

Asus ZenFone Selfie – Cameras

The main feature of this phone, though, is it cameras. Front and back both employ 13mp sensors and each is accompanied by a dual-tone flash for more natural-looking colours.

The rear camera is f2.0 while the front one is slightly less speedy at f2.2, making neither of them particularly fast lenses by modern phone standards. The rear camera also includes laser-assisted auto-focussing.

Trying the cameras out, the rear one did indeed appear to have a nippy auto-focus and results from shots with and without the flash were pretty decent. It’s far too early to say just how good they are but it definitely coped pretty well considering the fairly challenging lighting conditions.


Asus Zenfone SelfieMore importantly, the front facing camera also did pretty well. Out test shots were rather disturbed by the strong spotlights behind but still came out looking in focus, well metered and with a natural looking skin tone, despite the use of flash. All told it perfectly demonstrates the advantage of having a properly thought out selfie camera.

Whether you can just make do with turning your phone round and using the rear camera is a different matter but having tried numerous times ourselves to do just that we’d suggest dedicated selfie cameras are the way to go.

Asus Zenfone Selfie – Early Verdict

The Zenfone Selfie is unlikely to sway those considering the latest and greatest Android handsets but for those just looking for a mid-range handset that does the basics well and that can also boast an easy way to take great selfies it absolutely fits the bill.

We’ll have to wait for our full review to see exactly how it compares to the HTC Desire Eye but first impressions are definitely good. The Asus Zenfone release date is imminent thought pricing has yet to be announced.

Sony Xperia Z3+ review


  • Fewer annoying flaps and ports
  • Less-is-more approach to software
  • Water and dustproof


  • Unacceptable overheating issues
  • No optical image stabilisation
  • Poor HDR photo mode

Review Price £499.00

Key Features: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor; 20.7-megapixel camera; 5-megapixel front-facing camera; 5.2-inch Full HD 1080p IPS screen; IP65/IP68 dust-tight and waterproof; 3GB RAM; 32GB onboard storage ; microSD card up to 128GBManufacturer: Sony

What is the Sony Xperia Z3+?

Sony’s made a habit of updating its flagship phone every six months or so, and the Z3+ is the latest example. It’s taken a little longer this time around, but the Z3+ is the ‘six-monthly’ update to the Xperia Z3 that was launched in September last year. It’s thinner and lighter, while also adding the new Qualcomm 810 processor and a wide-angle front camera.

That ought to be enough for it compete with the Samsung Galaxy S6, LG G4 and other top-end Android smartphones, but it isn’t. It’s a nice phone, but the only thing that stands out at present is a totally unacceptable overheating problem with the camera. If Sony wishes to continue as a phone maker then it needs to get its act together – and soon.


Sony Xperia Z3+ 51

Sony Xperia X3+ – Design & Features

Sony has made all the right moves in some respects. The Z3 was hampered by an overabundance of annoying flaps and buttons, and the Z3+ isn’t. The main Micro USB port is now uncovered and on the bottom, instead of on the left and behind a delicate, easy-to-break flap, while the side-mounted dock connector is gone, too.

The latter change makes the Z3+ much nicer to hold – it has fewer protrusions and more smooth, undisturbed edges. The new pullout tray for the microSD card (up to 128GB) and Nano SIM is a tad awkward, but overall these small changes make for a better phone to use.

Sony Xperia Z3+ 39Yet it retains the benefit of water- and dust-proofing that’s attracted people to the range over the years. The Z3+ has an IP68 rating, which means it’s totally dustproof and waterproof down to 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes. Waterproofing isn’t a killer feature, but it’s a nice one all the same.

The basic button layout makes using this large, 5.2-inch phone much easier, too. Both the standby button and volume buttons are within easy reach, and they aren’t as easily confused as they are on the HTC One M9. There’s also a dedicated camera capture button, which lets you quickly launch the camera even when the phone is locked.


Sony Xperia Z3+ 33All these little touches show Sony has put some serious thought into the Z3+ and it’s one of the nicer-looking flagship phones. Views differ in the TrustedReviews office, but it holds its own against the HTC One M9 and LG G4, though the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 still stand out in their own little mini-league.

The glass rear is still rather slippery, though – it’s the kind of phone that can slide off uneven surfaces, sometimes to its doom. And, for such a pricey phone, the visual clutter of the ‘toughened corners’ and connecting trims is off-putting. Sony has evolved this basic design over several versions now, but it would be nice if it tried something fresh soon.

You get most of the features of other top-end phones, though, including NFC and quad-band 4G support. And the Z3+ adds Hi-Res Audio support, making it one of the few choices if you’re interested in Hi-Res Audio. You can even get the Z3+ with a free pair of “hi-res” headphones in the UK.

Sony Xperia Z3+ 49

Sony Xperia Z3+ – Screen Quality

There’s nothing new to report here. Sony’s retained the same 5.2-inch IPS screen as in the Z3. That means the Z3+ has 424 pixels per inch. This is less than ‘Quad HD’ phones like the LG G4 (538ppi) or Galaxy S6 (577ppi), but the Z3+ simply serves to illustrate the dubious benefit of such resolutions on small phones. Text on the Z3+ looks perfectly sharp and nicely defined.

It’s also a bright, rich and colourful screen, so photos and video look just as good as on most of its rivals. The usual exception is the AMOLED screen on the Galaxy S6, which has an obvious edge with contrast that ensures it can generate near-perfect blacks. The Z3+ can’t claim the same, but processing tech borrowed from Sony’s TVs gives you pleasing results all the same.

Only the viewing angle slightly disappoints. There’s a greater loss of brightness and contrast when viewed off-centre than rivals, though it isn’t a critical problem – only someone stood next to you would notice.

The fact that outdoor visibility is very good is far more important, while the responsiveness of the touchscreen is as good as you’d expect from a top-of-the-range phone.

Why Continuum is Windows 10 Mobile’s killer feature

Windows 10 Mobile doesn’t launch until later this year but Continuum could make it worth the wait

This week saw the launch of Windows 10 on desktops and laptops, but Microsoft’s next, maybe greatest, challenge will be to establish a meaningful presence for its OS on mobile.

However, this won’t see a new version to Windows Phone. Instead, Microsoft is actually going to cram Windows 10 onto a smartphone, calling it Windows 10 Mobile.

So, the sophisticated OS you’re now using on your laptop is the same OS you’ll experience on a Microsoft smartphone later in the year. As a result, you’ll most certainly have access to the one killer feature of Windows 10 on mobile too – in the form of Continuum.

Watch our Windows 10 video covering the best new features



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What is Continuum?

Continuum is the name Microsoft has given to Windows 10′s unique ability to mould to the platform on which it’s running. In the case of hybrid laptops (such as the Surface Pro 3), this amounts to subtle shifts in the UI when you unplug the keyboard and go full touch.

In the case of Windows 10 Mobile phones, however, it difference will more be dramatic and potentially game-changing. Put simply, Continuum will enable you to turn your smartphone into a PC.

It will allow you to connect a keyboard, mouse, and monitor to your phone and essentially operate it as you would a Windows 10 computer.

Related: Windows 10 vs Windows 7: Should you upgrade?



Universal apps

While this ability to run Windows 10 on all form factors is clever, it will be the universal apps that really enable Continuum to make a difference on mobile.

And here Microsoft is pushing developers to create one app that runs on all form factors, which along with the Windows 10 UI, should see seamless scaling.

“With Universal apps in Windows 10, software developers are writing their apps for the PC and the phone,” explained Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore at Build 2015 back in April. “And when those apps are run with a mouse and keyboard, they work exactly the way users expect.”

To use one of Microsoft’s own examples, Outlook will seamlessly expand from a stripped-back mobile UI to a desktop view that includes folders on the left, messages in the middle, and previews on the right. All the appropriate keyboard shortcuts will work, too.

Related: Windows 10 features you should try first



Windows 10 Mobile hardware

Although we’re yet to seen any Windows 10 phone hardware from Microsoft just yet, we do know that new hardware will be necessary to run the new OS.

What’s more, all indications are that it will enter at the premium end of the market. Really, when you think about it, it will have to in order to run Windows 10 and Continuum in this way.

Microsoft has said that these new Windows 10 phones will run on high-end Qualcomm processors that are capable of driving two screens simultaneously.

With Continuum, your mobile display will continue to operate independently of the monitor you have it hooked up to. This means that you’ll be able to continue to send emails and messages while, say, watching a movie on the monitor.

Related: Windows 10 Start Menu: How Microsoft is bringing the iconic feature back



Why Continuum will be Windows 10 Mobile’s killer feature

Continuum will be Windows 10 Mobile’s killer feature for a couple of reasons. If you’re a Windows 10 user then a Windows 10 Mobile will offer a seamless mobile extension of your desktop experience.

It will replicate key functions and apps, which will do away with the necessity of lugging a laptop or tablet around with you. Currently, no other smartphone platform offers this functionality.

Of more importance are the apps. Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 were bold, modern mobile operating systems with plenty to recommend. However, both failed due to the lack of developer support, which resulted in a lack of apps. Continuum for Windows 10 changes all that in one fell swoop.

Related: Windows 10 vs Windows 8


Windows 10 mobileDevelopers no longer need to waste time and resources on building apps for a platform that has a mere fraction of the installed userbase of iOS and Android. They just need to make Windows 10 apps and spend a little time on the scaling options.

It will also ensure that those apps that are available will be the best that they can be, with the added benefit of being updated regularly.

The phone version of Windows 10 won’t appear until later this year (possibly November) – but Continuum offers Microsoft the best chance at mobile success yet.

Hands on: Saygus V2 phone

With a Kevlar back and room for up to 464GB, Saygus’s V2 doesn’t mess around

An Android superphone that ticks all the right boxes for hardcore fandroids.

The Saygus V2 is an Android KitKat smartphone with a huge list of features including a 21-megapixel camera, waterproofing, and a biometric fingerprint sensor. Excitement has been building in the Android community for the past few months, and we were keen to put it to the test at Mobile World Congress 2015.

The Saygus V2 (that’s “V squared” by the way) is one of those devices with a spec sheet that reads like a wish list for Android geeks.

The Saygus V2 (that’s “V squared” by the way) is one of those devices with a spec sheet that reads like a wish list for Android geeks.

There are two things that Android fans never fail to comment on when a new phone is released: expandable storage and a removable battery. The Saygus V2 knocks it out the park on both counts. It has 64GB of on board storage out of the box and two microSD card slots inside. With SanDisk’s newest 200GB cards, that could give you a grand total of 464GB.

The 3,100mAh battery can also be replaced, but Saygus says there’s a special chip inside that dynamically manages the screen, using light sensors front and back, to reduce battery drain. We’ll certainly put those claims to the test in our full Saygus V2 review.

At first glance it doesn’t look special. It’s fairly chunky, it has a 5-inch 1,920 x 1,080 pixel screen, and the back covers sport some interesting and unusual patterns. One squiggly metallic line is actually supposed to boosts signal quality.

The screen stretches all the way to a protective Kevlar edge, with minimal bezels top and bottom, which makes the phone feel quite small and easy to handle considering the 5-inch display. It also has a waterproof IPx7 rating, despite the removable back cover. The right spine has nice shiny aluminum and magnesium buttons for the power, volume rocker, and there’s a dedicated camera button. There’s also a strange black strip, which turns out to be the biometric fingerprint sensor. You can swipe your finger on it to unlock the device, though we didn’t see it in action.

It’s not easy to say whether the Saygus V2 will live up to its promise.

Saygus showed the ability to stream HD content at 60Hz to a TV using a special dongle, which it plans to sell as an optional accessory. It will be priced competitvely with a Chromecast, but we can tell you it performs a lot better. You can drag your finger back or forward on a full HD video and it plays instantly on the big screen, no pause to buffer. It also has an IR blaster so it can serve as a remote control.

Moving inside, the processor is a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 paired with an Adreno 330 GPU, which is perfectly respectable, but no longer cutting edge. The cameras are more impressive. There’s a 21-megapixel main camera and a 13-megapixel front-facing camera, but neither one was working in the display version we handled.

It also has dual Harmon Kardon speakers and noise-cancelling technology, which is great for watching movies and gaming on your phone. All the extra features you’d expect to find are there including NFC, Bluetooth LE, and GPS.


It’s not easy to say whether the Saygus V2 will live up to its promise. Some things were working well when we tried it out, but other features were missing in action. It’s set to land within eight weeks, so Saygus doesn’t have long to work out the kinks. And it’s going to cost $599, so it has to be a bit special. The company told us it has received pre-orders from 51 countries, though they wouldn’t share the exact numbers just yet. But representatives were confident it will ship on time.

We’ll bring you a more in-depth look at the Saygus V2 after we receive a review unit in a few weeks. We can’t wait to spend a bit more time with this phone and really put it through its paces.


  • Huge storage
  • Rugged
  • Great cameras
  • Fingerprint sensor


  • Older processor
  • Quite chunky