Notebookcheck's Best of February 2013 - Smartphone and Tablet Edition
Overshadowed by the MWC. The Mobile World Congress is looming on the horizon and will take place in Barcelona at the end of February. However, we have already reviewed a few interesting devices. Samsung and HTC have refreshed their successful handsets and two Chinese manufacturers have delivered their journeyman’s piece. February carried the slogan “bargain” for tablets.
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While January was still fairly quiet – no wonder, as December was quite hectic – the review gears started to roll again in February. That is despite the fact that the most important event of the Tablet and Smartphone year, the Mobile World Congress, has only just begun towards the end of February. We expect numerous new releases in the following months, especially in the Smartphone category. The signs are all indicating a wave of Phablets, large mobile phones with high resolution. We are excited – but let’s go back to February first.
Four tablets based on ARM processors have found their way to our laboratory. All four are waving the logo "Value for Money" on their banners and come from more or less famous manufacturers, but not premium brands. Probably more famous within the notebook sector, Bullman has produced a second tablet, which is reviewed by us. The Bullman Tab 9 AQQ Revolution comes with a fast Quad-Core CPU and plenty of 2 GB storage, aiming to play in the high-end class – at a middle class price point. Middle class is the slogan of the other three tablets. The Archos 97 Titanium HD tries to provide an HD feeling at a fair price, which is something the Prestigio MultiPad 10.1 Ultimate 3G wants to achieve as well, topping the experience with a UMTS module. For the first time at Notebookcheck, we have a tablet from desktop and notebook distributor Nexoc. The Captiva PAD 10.1 has yet to earn its spurs.
There was a lot going on with the Smartphones. Despite the short 28-day month, we were able to push eight devices through our review process. That is a new record. Represented were both current top models of well-known brand manufacturers and absolute newcomers and niche models, amongst them two devices, which were only available directly from China until then. Specifically there were: the new flagship HTC One X+, the Sony Middle Class Xperia Acro S and the Dual-SIM version Sony Xperia E dual, Samsung's first Windows 8 Phone ATIV S, the two China imports Amoi N821 and Jiayu G3 as well as the 5.2-inch Simvalley SPX-12 from distributor Pearl. On to the battle.
Captiva PAD 10.1 85%
On paper, the Bullman Tab 9 AQQ Revolution promises much - very much actually. An ultra-fast Exynos Quad-Core CPU and 2 GB RAM for 329 Euros (~$428), which has never happened before. Moreover, with regards to performance, the inexpensive tablet shows what is doable for relatively little money. Significantly more expensive devices have to up their game. However, it is not able to come near rivals with comparable specifications. In addition, there are flaws in workmanship and the display cannot convince us fully. Even though the picture has good contrast, brightness and resolution are only average. In conclusion, it is enough for a good rating. Yet, based on the technical specifications, it would have been possible to achieve more. Then the tablet would have had been able to revolutionize rather than end with only a hoarse cry.
At the end of the 20th century, Archos has already become known with its innovative multimedia gamers. Nowadays, there are also tablets from those French. Archos always tries to deliver pleasing design at a low price and in addition, offer one or two unique features. For the Archos 97 Titanium HD it is the high resolution of 2048x1536, already known from the iPad 4. And here we have the first problem. The high resolution only kicks in after it has been selected and requires a reboot. Even then, there are slight issues. Menus, fading, games – the display irritates continuously with strong flickering. For that reason, Archos has already destroyed hopes for a better result upon turning the device on. Even the good workmanship, appealing design and other good benchmark results of the display are unable to change that. All that remains for the Archos 97 Titanium HD in February is a consolation prize.
Prestigio tablets could always score with good performance, appropriate features, good workmanship and fair price points. Is it the same for the Prestigio MultiPad 10.1 Ultimate 3G? Of course. The reviewers can attest to very good workmanship with a thin chassis and low weight. Together with the integrated 3G module, it is extremely suited for mobile usage. However, there are two aspects that are of concern: The display is not bright enough and the short battery life sends the tablet to the next power outlet early on. Also worthy of criticism are the cameras and the loudspeaker. However, there is nothing to criticize about the performance.
With their more or less serious flaws, those three tables are putting out the red carpet for the newcomer - and the Captiva PAD 10.1 accepts it gratefully. Even though it might be the most boring device in February, it is exactly this inconspicuousness, which allows the Captiva tablet to score. The workmanship is all right, the design simple. Even with regards to features, it does not stand out from the crowd, at least not negatively. The strong points are fairly high performance at an inexpensive price and a good display, which is remarkable in this category. The lack of GPS is sad and the cameras are just as poor as in other tablets. All in all, the Captiva PAD 10.1 delivers a solid performance at a high standard.
Tablet of the month of February 2013: Captiva PAD 10.1
As in January, the tablet with the least weaknesses is able to take the crown in February. The newcomer Captiva PAD 10.1 is certainly no highlight, but definitely a dependable and bargain tablet for everyday use. If that was the goal of the manufacturer, he has done (almost) everything right.
What we like
The great price-quality ratio.
What we'd like to see
A battery with higher capacity would have provided even better battery life.
What surprised us
That Captiva has managed to deliver a solid tablet with a good display at such a price.
HTC One X + 88%
Samsung ATIV S 87%
Amoi N821 85%
Jiayu G3 84%
Simvalley SPX-12 83%
Eight Smartphones, amongst them some very exciting devices, pushed themselves into our test laboratory in February. We have never been that tight for room. The review results were also fairly tight. With the HTC One X +a, a new high-end model caused excitement at the very beginning. Even though the description sounded like a minor change, HTC has actually made a big leap. This begins with the higher clocked processor and the larger internal memory and it includes the current Android version. The Taiwanese have not changed anything about the display, which was not necessary anyway. The One X+ was also able to score with regards to features. The reviewer mentions the performance, display and the cameras, the radio modules, the custom skin and so forth. There was some criticism as well. LTE support and a card reader were missing and the power button is not too solid.
We can cover both Sony devices in February with one paragraph; the Japanese corporation is flooding the Smartphone market with their products. There are not enough niches for Sony to cover with their products. The Sony Xperia E dual is a middle class mobile phone with a unique feature: It can use two SIM cards simultaneously. This function is integrated quite well into the user interface and provides real value added. Altogether, the pros and cons are balancing each other out. The points of criticism are not dramatic so that the Xperia E dual achieves a good final result. Also a middle class device, the second Sony, the Xperia Acro S, can only handle one SIM card. Thanks to the protection from dust and splashed water, it is especially suitable as an outdoor device and is complemented by the bright and high contrast display. However, we didn't like that the battery cannot be replaced. In addition, the weight and the dimensions are a bit too high for our liking.
In spite of market leadership in the Smartphone sector, Samsung has waited long before releasing its first Windows 8 device. In line with the current naming convention, it is obviously called Samsung ATIV S, and it is celebrating its launch with success. The reviewer can attest smooth and intuitive operation to the fairly light device. Pure benchmarks do not reflect the same performance as one experiences in everyday use. The battery can be replaced and allows for long battery life. Even the cameras deserve praise and that is very rarely the case. The display rating is also very good. Samsung's Super-AMOLED-technology shows once again how good colors, black value, contrast and viewing angle can be. We had to search for points of criticism and found a lack of bundled accessories and an RRP that is too high.
For the first time we had two review devices which are only available as imports from China, the Amoi N821 and the Jiayu G3. Whoever thought it was just cheap stuff was mistaken, even though the packaging and the resulting smell of glue were not very promising. However, the two cheap Dual-SIM mobile phones were surprisingly good. Both gain points with more than satisfactory workmanship and materials. A good IPS display as well as middle class components are also being offered. However, the integration of the Dual-SIM-function should have been implemented a bit smoother. Altogether, the Amoi N821 is slightly superior to the Jiayu G3. It is visually more pleasing and slimmer. Both are not high-end devices and the cameras …
With the Samsung Galaxy S2 Plus, another revised model found its way into our laboratory. In contrast to HTC, Samsung has refreshed a rather old, but successful model; Successfully, if taking into account the overall results. Again, an AMOLED display of the Koreans convinces us with great colors, contrast and viewing angles. In addition, we have a more than pleasing performance, flawless workmanship and materials. In addition, NFC and microSD card expansion are not missing. On the other hand, the low resolution and average bundled accessories were received less well. In the end, both points probably prevented the Galaxy S2 from winning the Award this month.
In that respect, the Simvalley SPX-12 would be no contender either. The distributor Pearl is rather trying to occupy a niche with its 5.2-inch Phablet, as long as there is still a niche. Smartphones with very large displays and Dual-SIM functionality. No one has dared to enter this territory. Demand for such devices does surely exist. In addition, Pearl makes the SPX-12 interesting due to a fair price point. At the end, positive aspects such as smooth operation, good workmanship and long battery life dominate. However, Pearl is not able to completely eliminate its cheap image. This is not helped by the flimsy battery cover and poor cameras. In the end, it still represents an interesting alternative.
Smartphone of the month of February 2013: HTC One X +
Two devices from industrial giant Samsung have made it to the podium in February. The ATIV S and the Galaxy S2 Plus have to share the second place though. Because both are below the HTC One X+, which was slightly better.
What we like
The performance of the Tegra 3 + processor, the intuitive HTC Sense interface and the great 720p-Display.
What we'd like to see
For the new flagship model, we would have liked LTE and finally a card reader.
What surprised us
Longer battery life despite powerful components.