Notebookcheck's Best of April 2013 – Smartphones and Tablets
For the original German article, see here.
In April, we reviewed as many as eleven tablets and nine smartphones. In both categories we saw very interesting devices as well as typical mainstream products for little money. In particular, the Microsoft Surface Pro, the Asus Fonepad, and the Sony Xperia Tablet Z (first pre-series model in Germany under review) stood out from the crowd. Two new top smartphone models drew our attention. The HTC One is a big smartphone with Full HD resolution and uncompromising performance. The Optimus G E975 is the new flagship device from LG.
Eleven tablets: The first one under review in April, the Toshiba AT300SE seemed to be relatively unspectacular at first. But, at second glance, it offers a lot for its price. If you want to own a Microsoft Surface Pro, you'll have to spend a lot of money. We had to wait quite long for it, but the tablet with Ivy Bridge hardware is rather impressive. This cannot be said about the two Xenta tablets from Yarvik. Although the 7-inch Xenta 7ic and the 13-inch Xenta 13c looked good, their inner components did not perform well. The Fujitsu Stylistic Q572 is a competitor of the Microsoft Surface Pro which does not feature an Intel CPU, but the rather new AMD Z-60. It is even more expensive. We also reviewed several Easypix models in April. The 8-inch SmartPad EP800 Ultra features powerful hardware. The MonsterPad Red Ninja with 7-inch display and colored bag was designed for children. The Acer Iconia Tab A211 is a rather unobtrusive tablet. Apart from a 3G module it does not have many advantages. The Sony Xperia Tablet Z is totally different. The extremely slim and IP-protected pre-series model is largely convincing. A review of the series model will follow shortly. The Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx K3011 is one of three tablets with an x86 CPU under review in April. If features an Intel Atom processor. Finally, the 7-inch Asus Fonepad with advertised telephone functionality is a little bit between the two worlds. We categorize it as a tablet.
The HTC One top model of the Taiwanese manufacturer managed to place itself at the top of our Smartphone Top 10 and replaced the Apple iPhone 5, which had held first place for months. In contrast, the Yarvik Ingenia X1 features a big display and dual SIM support for a low price. We reviewed four smartphones from the Galaxy family from Samsung, the top Android manufacturer. While outdoor users especially will like the IP-protected Xcover 2, the Galaxy Express was designed for users who place value on LTE for fast internet access. The fast phone was largely inspired by the successful Galaxy S3. The Samsung Galaxy Fame and the Young look very similar. They are compact and cheap and were designed for younger users. Furthermore, the Young features two SIM slots. The LG Optimus G E975 is smaller than the HTC One and also not as expensive. Nevertheless, it is also a top smartphone. Apart from the Sony Xperia ZL, Sony also offers a second top model, the Xperia Z. We wonder whether this product strategy from the entertainment giant really makes sense. Finally, we had an absolute entry-level model, the Huawei Ascend Y300 for only 149 Euros (~$192) under review in April.
Yarvik Xenta 7ic 78%
Yarvik Xenta 13c 82%
The Toshiba AT300SE is an inexpensive new model of the AT300 and was only launched a few months after its predecessor. The price is 50 Euros (~$64) lower, but at first glance you won't recognize any differences. With Nvidia's Tegra 3, it features a proven chip and the 10-inch tablet delivers a decent performance. The bright display, the decent speaker and the long battery life match the good overall impression. The high weight and the poor camera are cons. Overall, it delivers a solid performance at a fair price.
The Microsoft Surface Pro aims at more than just being solid. This is what you should expect for 900 Euros (~$1166). It features an Intel Core i5 processor, Windows 8 64-bit, and the usual keyboard of Surface models called Touch Cover. There are a lot of pros. We like its high performance, its excellent display and its unique connectivity with USB 3.0 and DisplayPort. Furthermore, we appreciate the case with integrated stand. However, the internal memory is rather small for a tablet with x86-architecture and Windows 8. In addition, weight, system noise, its cameras, and battery life could not completely convince. Nevertheless, the Microsoft Surface Pro got the best rating in April.
In April, notebookcheck.com reviewed devices from Yarvik for the first time. They made two tablets available to us. The Xenta 7ic has an unusual shape and scored points with a rather high performance without getting hot. Unfortunately, the display is modest and the input devices (buttons, keys and touchscreen) are imprecise. Battery and cameras do not comply with our expectations either. The bigger brother performs significantly better. The Yarvik Xenta 13c is a 13-inch model and one of the biggest tablets we have ever reviewed. While its display is brighter than the smaller model's, its viewing angles and distribution of brightness could be better. Its build quality is decent; it features two USB ports and delivers a high performance. But, the energy management should be improved, as the battery life is modest.
The APU from AMD inside the Fujitsu Stylistic Q572 is called Hondo. It is a rather new CPU with x86-architecture for business customers. 4 GB RAM and Windows 8 Pro 64-bit also hint at this field of application. The AMD Z-60 is faster than every ARM based processor, but cannot completely keep up with the Intel Core i competition. We appreciate the fully fledged connectivity and the display with wide viewing angles. But, the brightness sensor does not work perfectly and system noise and rattling keys are annoying. The cameras are really poor.
Cheap tablets often stem from Easypix. We had two of them under review in April. The SmartPad EP800 Ultra is 8-inches big and should deliver high performance at a cheap price. This is indeed successful. The SoC is one of the best currently available and delivers a rather high performance. But, it would probably even perform better with a more up-to-date tablet. Thanks to its decent build quality and the included cover, the SmartPad is a reliable companion. But, the dark display with narrow viewing angles is not fit for outdoor use. Unfortunately, it shares this problem with the MonsterPad Red Ninja for children, whose display is a little bit brighter. Why do we call it a tablet for children? It is colorful, has a funny bag, and the manufacturer lists certain apps for children on its website. Is this sufficient? We do not think so. It remains a cheap tablet with a colorful finish.
The Acer Iconia Tab A211 is certainly not especially slim. Otherwise the manufacturer could not incorporate a full-size USB 2.0 port. But, this is the only unique feature. Acer uses an Nvidia Tegra 3, a mainstream SoC. This is not a point of critique as the A211 can easily run all tasks. In addition, the display is comfortably bright and its colors neutral. Build quality and battery life are alright too. But, weight and power consumption are too high, and the satellite search of the GPS module takes a long time.
The Xperia Tablet Z is the newest tablet from Sony. The manufacturer kindly made a pre-series model available to us. However, display and software were not yet in the final state, so we did not give it a rating yet. But, the slimmest and lightest 10-inch tablet so far left a decent impression. It delivers a high performance and a rather decent display, although it is still in beta state. The rear camera can be used for snapshots. The build quality is a point of critique. It is interesting to see what will be improved by the launch date.
The Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx K3011 is the third tablet with an x86 CPU in April, an Intel Atom Z2760. The 11.6-inch consumer device comes with Windows 8 32-bit. The 600 Euros (~$777) tablet has a light and slim case and a colorful display. But, the battery life is short and the charge time long. Furthermore, it lacks a fully fledged USB port.
The Asus Fonepad was the last tablet under review in April and is an innovative solution. It is either a huge smartphone or a standard 7-inch tablet, which can also be used as a phone. We categorized it as a tablet and want to point out that a headset should definitely be included. It is so big it can be awkward to hold to the ear. Apart from this, the Fonepad performs well. The build quality is high-end and the materials are appropriate for a mid-range price. The display is contrast-rich and has wide viewing angles, but should be brighter. The camera is very poor and so is the power adapter. In addition, the Intel platform still suffers from a few compatibility issues.
Tablet of April 2013: Microsoft Surface Pro
A tablet with x86-architecture won once again. While the Microsoft Surface Pro has a few weaknesses, performance, display, and build-quality are high-grade. This was sufficient to win first prize.
What we like
High performance, input pen included, x86 version of Windows 8 for compatibility.
What we'd like to see
More storage capacity, lower system noise, lighter weight and longer battery life.
What surprises us
That the Surface Pro is still not available in Germany/Europe.
HTC One 91%
Sony Xperia ZL 88%
April started with a bang. The HTC One is the current top model of the Taiwanese manufacturer, and comparable to devices like the Sony Xperia Z, the Xperia ZL, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 (review will follow shortly). The HTC features a 4.7-inch display, while Sony and Samsung use 5-inch displays. Nevertheless, it achieved a very good rating. The reviewers liked the Full HD display because of its high brightness, the low black value and the excellent contrast. In addition, it features an aluminum case with flawless build quality, which houses very powerful components and vast connectivity. It delivers a decent battery life, a remarkable speaker and good speech quality. However, we have to criticize that it lacks a card reader, the battery cannot be removed and the camera is not entirely satisfactory. With its rating, the HTC One won first place in our Smartphone Top 10.
The Yarvik Ingenia X1 cannot keep up with this level. It was rather designed as an affordable smartphone with decent performance, big display, and dual SIM support, and the 5.3-inch device is largely successful in this endeavor. The materials and quality of the cameras show that cost was kept low and the power adapter is one of the weakest of its kind. But, the customer gets a solid and sophisticated device with sufficient performance and dual SIM support for 280 Euros (~$362). Furthermore, the battery life is long and the display convincing.
As many as four smartphones from the Android giant Samsung were reviewed by us in April. First of all, we scrutinized the Xcover 2, a robust, IP-protected smartphone: The outdoor device had to prove that it can withstand water, sand, and falls, which it did. In addition, it could also completely convince in our standard tests. Cons are the small storage capacity, the poor front camera and the rather high weight. We also liked the Xcover 2's flawless build quality, its excellent outdoor capability, and its very appealing display. Furthermore, we appreciated the fast internal memory and the decent sound of the speaker. The performance of the mobile phone for adventurers is mid-range.
This is not true for the Samsung Galaxy Express. It looks like the successful S3 and delivers an upper mid-range performance. Its long battery life and the up-to-date LTE data turbo make it a perfect mobile companion. That is, if the contrast-rich display was a little bit brighter. Further pros are wide viewing angles and the useful preinstalled apps, which unfortunately also includes bloatware.
The two small Android smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy Fame and the Young were designed for younger users with small budgets. These have a simple, yet not uninspired design. The small displays are very bright, but the viewing angles are narrow. They are comfortable to hold with the hands and their build quality is decent. The Samsung Galaxy Young delivers more for the money as it features a bigger RAM capacity and dual SIM support. Unfortunately, its performance is rather poor and the battery life modest. Furthermore, the camera is poor. The Fame is slightly faster, but otherwise similar to the Young.
LG also launched a new top model in April. The Optimus G E975 does not belong to the best of its kind, as it is slightly too slow. Nevertheless, it is a top 4.7-inch model of the recent year. The reviewers appreciated the high performance and the bright display, which unfortunately does not follow the trend for Full HD resolution. We also liked the LTE and the NFC module, and the flawless build quality. Cons are that the battery cannot be removed and the memory cannot be extended - but this can often be seen in other devices too.
It seems that Sony launches more smartphones than any other manufacturer. The Xperia ZL is already the second flagship device from the entertainment company within a few weeks. Does it differ from the Xperia Z by more than the "L" in its name? Yes, there are several differences, but only a few. The case was slightly redesigned and it is no longer IP-protected. Unfortunately, the display was not improved. Its black value is still too high and the viewing angles are not satisfying. The 13 MP camera only suffices for snapshots. But, the high performance remained and the connectivity is exemplary.
At the end of the month, we reviewed the entry-level Huawei Ascend Y300 Android phone. We were particularly interested if it is bargain or a sham for 149 Euros (~$192). It is definitely not the latter, although customers must accept a significantly lower performance. But, the operating system is rather up-to-date and the battery life is enormous. However, the modest build quality, the small memory, and the hardly useful camera are reflected by the price.
Smartphone April 2013: HTC One
You could believe that the HTC One won first prize because of its name. But, this is not true. The top model of the Taiwanese manufacturer worked hard and honestly deserved first place in April and in our Smartphone Top 10.
What we like
Quite a lot! For instance, the high-quality aluminum case, the Full HD display, the stereo speakers and the performance of the components.
What we would like to see
A possibility to replace the battery. The closed case prevents that. We would also like a card reader.
What surprises us
Of all the things to miss, HTC misses a bug with the camera application. We would also like to list the speakers once more. A ghetto blaster for the pocket.
Latest high-end smartphones with Google Android. For example: the Samsung Galaxy S4 (GT-I9505), the Asus PadFone Infinity, the Sony Xperia Z or the cheaper Google Nexus 4. We also considered the Apple iPhone 5, the Nokia Lumia 920 and the Samsung ATIV S.