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Kindle Fire HDX Build

Amazon has never been one to shy away from forging its own path. Founded in an era that’s as well known for failed businesses as it is for successful ones, Amazon cleared a way for online retail dominance and became a leader in e-books and Web services and a quiet underdog in the digital distribution of music and video. And no single product gives consumers better access to all the company has to offer than the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX.

Amazon has been moving away from the event-based product launch—the latest updates to the Kindle Fire were announced through targeted media interviews and a relatively quiet marketing approach, despite this being the Kindle’s largest departure from, and greatest improvement over, the preceding models. Having missed the marketing mark ingloriously in the past, can Amazon compete where others have failed—against the Nexus 7 in value and the iPad in user experience? Let’s find out.

The body and build

The myriad Kindles that came before the HDX were never bad-looking devices. Black slates with little adornment have been a safe approach for Amazon, and for what it’s worth, those past Kindles were at least well-executed, nondescript slabs of black plastic. That’s not to say that a little style wouldn’t have won them some additional praise, though.

The HDX moves things along by just a hair. The gentle slopes of the prior models give way to a more angular design, with a single soft-touch plastic shell comprising the bulk of the body. The back rises away from the front like a flattened pyramid and plateaus to a swath of grippy plastic. In lieu of grip-enhancing textures, the angular approach gives your fingers a place to make purchase on slightly opposed facets. One long edge of the back foregoes the soft stuff for a glossy plastic element that houses the stereo speakers. The short edges of the back panel make room for power and volume buttons, leaving the front just one smooth glass surface. Until you’ve turned it on, the only landmark on the front is the front-facing camera, centered above the screen when the HDX is held in landscape. We’ve seen buttons on devices’ backs before, but they’re executed especially well here. Positioned just below (or above) the natural place you’d rest your fingers while holding the device in landscape, they’re well laid out, though slightly mushy.

Ports are limited, with a micro-USB on one side and the headphone jack on the other. Two microphones grace the top edge, and the rest of the device is untarnished.

Galaxy S4 Speakers Reviews

The S4 may have a bigger, higher resolution screen than its predecessor for enjoying such content but the audio from its speaker hasn’t improved by the same degree. The speaker is still a rear-mounted, mono design and so you have to carefully position your hands to avoid muffling it accidentally. Sound quality isn’t bad for such a speaker, but if you like to entertain yourself and friends with your handset then the HTC One’s front stereo speakers are far superior.

Samsung Galaxy S4
The single mono speaker is now at the bottom of the back

While we’re talking audio, the HTC One (and Xperia Z) also have FM Radios, which is missing from the S4 for the first time in the series. A disappointment, and one that may sway some radio fans.

Google Nexus 10 Review - Tablets

Google Nexus 10

It’s the first question anyone asks when they’re interested in a tablet: “Is it as good as the current iPad?” For the Google Nexus 10, the overall answer is, “No.” The iPad is still the best tablet experience one can have, thanks to its still unmatched performance and robust app and media ecosystem.

That said, if you have no interest in owning an Apple product anyway, but are still in the market for a premium tablet, the Nexus 10 should be at or near the top of your list. The choice isn’t as cut and dry as it should be, unfortunately. Your other go-to Android option — the Transformer Infinity — still has a better back camera, a brighter screen and expandable storage, and comes with a power adapter that’s actually proficient at charging the tablet.

The Nexus 10's stock charger uses its micro-USB port to charge and, as it turns out, that's not the most efficient way to charge a high-end tablet. Overnight charging will be fine, but if you ever need to charge in a hurry, you'll be out of luck.

So why is the Nexus 10 potentially the best Android tablet? Its screen is gorgeous and the sharpest around compared with any tablet, and it is the most comfortable 10-inch tablet to hold in your hand, with a durability that ensures you won’t immediate blow a gasket if your kids drop it.

For most, the iPad is still the tablet of choice, but for those looking for an alternative to Apple’s much more constrained OS, Google provides what’s arguably the best one yet. Like the Nexus 7 before it, the Nexus 10 marks a significant step toward a much more competitive tablet market, and its design heralds a new paradigm from which all other tablets should consider cribbing ASAP.

Just for the record, in the 7-inch tablet space, it’s the Nexus 7, not the iPad Mini, that currently reigns as the best small tablet.

Design

The Google Nexus 10 is one of the best-designed tablets yet. At just over 600g, it’s fairly light and has a slightly concave shape, with a subtly bevelled back design. Thanks to its light weight and smoothly rounded corners, the tablet never digs into your palms when held with two hands. The back is a soft, grippy, almost rubbery plastic that not only feels great to hold, but also doubles as protection for the tablet. The aforementioned rounded corners have that same rubbery plastic around them. The whole outer shell feels almost like an exoskeleton accessory, specifically designed to protect the delicate tablet organs inside.

This feels like a tablet you can get a little rough with, and one that won’t immediately induce apoplexy when your kid grabs it. Also, there are no scratchy edges and no fine corners. While preparing this review, we mistakenly dropped the tablet a couple of times onto a concrete floor and saw not one scratch or dent.

Manufactured by Samsung, the all-black tablet bears a passing resemblance to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, and, like that tablet, its bezels are wide. The side bezels, thanks to the inclusion of dual, front-facing speaker grilles, are especially so. Though some may prefer thinner bezels, the wider ones here make the tablet easier to hold in two hands. Your hands do cover the speakers if held in landscape mode, but since the speaker grille is also really long — spanning about 5.5 inches — there’s plenty of room for sound to get through. Also, if you’re holding it while listening to something, you’ll likely have headphones on.

Google keeps things simple for physical features. On the left edge are a headphone jack and micro-USB charging/data port. In the left corner of the top edge sit the power/sleep button and volume rocker. Alone on the right edge is a micro-HDMI port, with a magnetic Pogo Pin charger on the bottom edge.

Along the top of the tablet’s back is a textured strip that feels like a refinement of the Nexus 7’s back texture material. Within that strip (which is also removable) is a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera next to an LED flash and microphone. On the front, in the middle of the top bezel, is the tablet’s front-facing 1.9-megapixel camera and ambient light sensor. On the back, right in middle, is a large, embossed Nexus logo above a smaller Samsung one.

Features

The Nexus 10 is the first tablet to house Samsung’s 1.7GHz dual-core Exynos 5250 CPU. It uses a Mali T-604 as its graphics processor and has 2GB of RAM. The Exynos 5250 was built using the Cortex-A15 processor, which is one of the first tablet CPUs to truly rival Apple’s A5 and A6 family. It also supports 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and near-field communication (NFC). There’s also a gyroscope, barometer, accelerometer and digital compass.

Multi Screen implements users’ accounts in Android 4.2. Simply add a new user from the Settings>Users menu and follow the steps to set up an additional user account. New user accounts and all content on those accounts can be deleted by the tablet owner (the primary account) at any time. Also, any other user accounts on the tablet can accept updated app permissions on behalf of the additional account.

The Nexus 10's Super plane-to-line switching (PLS) screen is by far the best screen on any Android tablet and is beautiful to look at. But how does it compare with the iPad's 2048x1536-pixel Retina display? Honestly, strictly speaking from a perspective of clarity, it's difficult to see a difference. Both tablets rendered sharp text, and it was difficult to distinguish which was clearer, despite the Nexus 10 screen's higher 2560x1600-pixel resolution. If we had to choose a clarity winner, though, we'd go with the Nexus 10, as there were a few times where its text was slightly clearer.

Where the iPad beats the Nexus 10 is in black level, contrast and colour accuracy. The Nexus 10’s blacks just aren’t as deep nor are its whites as bright as they should be, and its colours aren’t as full. Expect a much deeper dive on this soon.

Performance

The Nexus 10 is one of the fastest Android tablets we’ve ever used. It’s not as consistently zippy as the third-generation (and, I assume, the fourth-generation) iPad, but when navigating menus, opening and switching apps, it’s very fast, and the fact that it keeps that speed up with rendering so many pixels is a testament to the Exynos 5250’s power.

Still, some Android wonkiness we thought had gone away with the Nexus 7 show up again here. Apps tend to hang more often than I’d like, and I’ve also experienced a few random restarts. Hopefully, Google irons these issues out before release.

Screen responsiveness has been fine tuned to razor-sharp accuracy. Pages scroll by as your finger swipes them, and taps are rarely misread. Also, with the tablet lying flat, typing is more accurate than on any tablet screen we’ve experienced, including the iPad. The iPad’s keyboard is plenty accurate, to be sure, but the wider aspect ratio of the Nexus 10 means more space for my hands.

As an anecdotal test just to give an idea of its battery performance, we turned both it and the third-generation iPad to full brightness and had them play Riptide GP for about 20 minutes. The iPad went from 20 to 11 percent and the Nexus 7 went from 98 to 88 percent.

The tablet uses the included micro-USB cable and wall adapter for charging. While it charges fine (albeit very slowly), if the screen is asleep, the battery actually discharges if plugged in while playing certain games, like Riptide GP. If the tablet is playing an HD movie at full brightness while plugged in, the battery will neither charge nor discharge.

The 5-megapixel back camera’s quality was better than the camera on most tablets, but it can’t match the Transformer Infinity’s stellar 8-megapixel back camera at capturing colour and clarity. The 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera is completely serviceable for Skype calls, but not much else.

Web loading speeds were whip fast, sometimes rendering pages seemingly instantaneously. Sometimes. Most times, however, it was about as fast as the third-generation iPad, loading pages like CNET in about five seconds on average. A 272MB app downloaded about a minute faster than on the Transformer Infinity, but was within 20 seconds of the iPad’s speed.

The speakers belted out pretty loud sound, but the quality is nothing to write home about. It’s definitely good, but I’m probably spoiled by the Kindle Fire HD’s awesome Dolby speakers.

Conclusion

The Nexus isn’t an iPad killer. At least, not in its current state. There are still a few performance issues that Google needs to iron out, and until we get more information on the Pogo charger’s pricing and availability, the slow charging issue will remain a particular sticking point.

You’ll still want to make the iPad your first choice thanks to its years of refined performance, apps selection and content ecosystem. If you’re going for Android, right now it’ll depend on what you’re looking for. The Transformer Infinity has a brighter screen, better camera and built-in storage-expansion option. However, the Nexus 10 has superior design and performance, and the features available in Android 4.2 may be worth the price of admission alone.

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