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Everybody needs to make notes. Maybe you jot down items sporadically for work and, if that’s the case, the iPhone’s proprietary note-taking app should be useful enough for the purpose. If you’re an avid note-taker, though, we doubt it will suffice. You’ll need something more robust like Thinglist. Made by Elepath, it’s a minimalist notetaking app that doesn’t look all that much different from the stock iOS app. Despite the apparent simplicity, it packs a [...]
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The Mazda6 is the epitome of the ugly duckling finding its unexpected swan. Anonymous in its first two generations, Mazda threw its Kodo design language at the third-gen version and ended up with one of the most distinctive four-doors around. Meanwhile, with the EV specter hanging over most car firms, Mazda remains a hybrid hold-out, maintaining there’s still plenty to squeeze out of existing technology before we look to batteries. Does the Mazda6 deliver? Read on for our full review.
If the old Mazda6 was a generic sedan sketched out by a child’s hand, the new model is a riot of detailing. Up front, the grille has grown once more, pushing forward and deepening to give the car an aggressive, searching snout that’s picked out with slips of chrome. The almond lights of the second-gen car have become tauter, more like snake’s eyes, with daytime running lights running in crisp LED sweeps under the halogens.
That Kodo wing, as Mazda calls it, bracketing the underside of the grille and leading into the lights, begins the haunch-line of the car, which starts with muscular wheel arches at the front and then slides into a twin-creased side line that ends at the slightly tapered rear. As the first of those creases dips into the rear door, the shoulder line rises to notch away the side glass, the rear windows of which are smoked as standard on all but the entry-level cars.
Finally, there’s another chrome whisker across the trunk, with the rear light clusters deeply set into the bodywork, and an integral lip-spoiler in the lid. It looks particularly good from the front or rear three-quarters, where Mazda’s sweeping movement lines along the sides have a touch of the Infiniti or Jaguar about them. Although the effect is most impressive on the four-door, Mazda’s 5-door load-carrier, the Mazda6 Tourer manages to look distinctive too, pulling the rear side glass out to end in a crease of chrome trim, while the falling roof line and angled back glass make for a car that’s still sporty in appearance, albeit sacrificing a little internal space in the process.
Mazda fits 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, though the Sport model – as we had on test – gets 19-inch versions with twisted spokes. Similarly there are front fogs standard across the range, part of an ambitious package of no-cost perks that belie the sticker price. The daytime running lights are standard, as are the halogens and heated door mirrors; our Sport model threw in bi-Xenon headlights and power mirrors, among other things.
Engines and Performance
Four engines are on offer in the UK, split between petrol and diesel, with a choice of 6-speed manual or auto transmissions. The entry-level Mazda6 SE has a choice of 2.0l 145ps petrol or 2.2l 150ps diesel, both manual; if you want the auto box options on those you need to step up to the SE-L. At the top is the Mazda6 Sport, with a choice of four combinations: either the 2.0l 165ps manual, the 2.2l 150ps diesel manual, the 2.2l 175ps diesel manual, or the 2.2l 175ps diesel automatic.
The US, however, only gets a single engine option: a 2.5l 184HP petrol offered with either the 6-speed manual or automatic gearboxes. The manual is rated for 25mpg (US) in the city or 37mpg (US) on the highway; the auto transmission bumps both of those by a point. Only the Sport sedan is offered of the four-doors, though there’s also the Touring and the Grand Touring (the latter adding in some extras as standard); since we tested a UK car, we haven’t tried the US-specific engine.
As you might expect, the 2.0l 165ps petrol manual in the Sport version is the most instantly aggressive. Mazda quotes a 9.1s 0-62mph time and a top speed of 134mph, and though the car is among the largest in its class – 4.87m long and 1.84m wide for the four-door – there’s more high-tensile steel and other lightweight materials used inside to keep the heft down.
Mazda calls all this fettling SKYACTIV, launching it in the CX-5 SUV, and indeed the Mazda6 builds on the same MacPherson struts and multilink rear suspension, putting its power down through the front wheels. It’s not an MX-5, certainly, but neither does it wallow or slump around corners, and even in the Tourer model it’s possible to forget there are three seats and a decent scale load area behind you as you tackle corners with alacrity.
It’s the diesel engines that suit the car most, however, the 2.2l 175ps manual we spent most time with pitching its mid-range torque right into the sweet spot for overtaking at speed in fifth gear, as well as dawdling through city traffic in fourth. While diesels may traditionally lack some of the upfront verve of their gas counterparts, in actual fact the 2.2l in the Mazda6 shaves the 0-62mph dash down to just 7.9s. Even the under-tuned 150ps version does it 0.1s faster than the slightly more powerful petrol plant. In practice, of course, this is a sizable car intended for more sensible use, but it’s hard not to be impressed by the degree of enthusiasm the big Mazda can muster.
One thing you won’t find on the options sheet is a hybrid powerplant. Mazda tells us it still isn’t convinced that big batteries and electric motors are the way forward for eco-friendly cars, looking instead to engine refinement with a few tech sprinkles to keep things competitive. So, the big diesel is rated for up to 62mpg (Euro) combined – we saw a consistent 44mpg (Euro) in mixed driving from the manual version, topping out in the mid-50s on extended trips – with 119 g/km of CO2 emissions. The top-spec petrol version is more thirsty, with a quoted 47.9mpg (Euro) combined consumption and 135 g/km CO2. Opt for the smallest diesel, though, and you can trim CO2 output to an impressively meager 108 g/km.
Even though Mazda has bypassed big batteries, that’s not to say there aren’t some small ones inside the Mazda6. i-ELOOP addresses an issue most drivers probably don’t even realize is there: the cost on engine power required to drive all a car’s electronics. The audio system, HVAC, power steering and such are usually run off an alternator clamped to the engine, sapping anything up to 10-percent of its output; with i-ELOOP, the same regenerative braking principles hybrids use to convert shedding speed to battery power is turned, in the Mazda6, into a temporary source for the car’s electronics.
It’s actually a big capacitor, not a battery, but in practice it’s basically transparent to the driver (unless you cycle through to the relevant graphic in the instrument binnacle). As you decelerate, the i-ELOOP system is charged up; it can then run the electrics for around a minute, good for what Mazda claims is around a 10-percent boost in fuel economy overall. It works in hand with Mazda’s i-stop automatic engine shut-down, which temporarily cuts off the engine while you’re paused in traffic, but keeps the music playing and the climate control blowing without draining your regular battery.
Mazda’s track record in making sports car interiors puts the driver in the right place in the Mazda6, particularly in the leather-clad environs of the Sport model (SE and SE-L make do with cloth seats as standard), though it’s not the most imaginative dashboard we’ve sat behind. The sat-nav touchscreen sits on top of the HVAC controls, the stack broken up with a swathe line – thankfully not fake wood – studded with vents, and all the controls feel sturdy and resilient, but there’s not much in the way of excitement or superlative-design to be found.
The murky, underwhelming clock and HVAC display of the CX-5 has been spruced up some for the Mazda6, and we can’t argue with the tactile knobs and buttons. Similarly, the wheel is nicely sized (and leather-wrapped across the range) with Mazda sensibly deciding not to follow rivals and scattershot it with buttons and shortcuts. Instead, you get cruise control on the right and A/V on the left, along with a voice-command button we’ll cover in the next section.
There are plenty of storage nooks, including a deep center armrest up front and sizable door pockets, while in the back there’s room for three adults. Despite the sweeping roofline there’s plenty of headroom, too, the seats being slung low enough to accommodate those six feet tall in comfort. The stylishly rising waistline – along with the tinted windows of the Sport variant – can make things a little difficult to see out of for younger passengers, however. Still, the contoured seats do a good job of holding people in place, even if the driver is getting a little carried away with the SKYACTIV handling, and though firm with the Sports suspension, the ride front and back is not uncomfortable even on longer road-trips.
Those trips can be accompanied by a reasonable amount of luggage, too, thanks to a capacious rear. Seats up – they split 60/40, and can only be dropped down from inside the trunk for security reasons – there are 483l to play with, versus 506l in the Tourer (which expands to 1,632l when both the Tourer’s seats are down). The opening itself is wide and relatively low, though can conveniently be opened from the key.
Mazda is keen to position itself as a tech-first company, and so the Mazda6 comes with most of the options boxes ticked, particularly if you specify the SE-L or Sport variants. Across the range you get cruise control; electric windows all round; a 5.8-inch color touchscreen atop a radio/single-slot CD player; Bluetooth for hands-free and streaming; both an aux-in and USB input for audio, hidden in the central armrest; and air-conditioning.
Our Sport tester, however, cranks that up even further, with dual-zone climate control and keyless entry; parking sensors front and rear, along with a reversing camera; rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming rear mirror; power adjustment and three-stage heating for the front seats (with two memory positions for the driver’s side); and a Bose surround sound audio system with a total of eleven speakers and dynamic noise compensation using a microphone hidden in the cabin.
That’s a fair amount of gadgetry, and there are a few different ways to control it, some it has to be said better than others. As well as the touchscreen sat on top of the dashboard – which has a few knobs and buttons around it, for jumping into navigation, audio, and phone, and controlling volume and tuning, there’s a multifunction dial next to the parking brake which along with rotating can be pushed in four directions and pressed in to select. That’s surrounded by another cluster of shortcut buttons – again, for audio, phone, navigation, and setup, as well as two back-keys – in the hope that you’ll not reach out and tap at the touchscreen when driving.
Mazda6 Technology Review:
For the basics, like adjusting volume or whipping through radio channels, the dial works well, but things get a little more complex if you try to do everything with it. What would normally require you to simply stab at the screen to change or select can demand some adroit maneuvering with the dial, to make sure you’re first highlighting the right section and only then scrolling through it.
It’s worth taking the time to get familiar with it, though, as there’s plenty you can do with the Mazda’s standard-fit entertainment system. The radio supports the usual presets and digital tuning, but we spent most time using Bluetooth to stream from our smartphone: both local tracks and streaming services like Spotify worked perfectly, and we were able to control playback using the Mazda6′s steering wheel mounted controls along with see artist, track, and album information on the display, together with phone battery status.
USB and aux-in playback works much in the same way, and there’s a thoughtful notch cut out for you to snake a cable out of the center armrest so you can use the device while still having somewhere to rest your elbow. Up to seven Bluetooth device pairings can be stored, with multipoint for having more than one active simultaneously, and the Mazda6 automatically resumes Spotify playback when you bring your phone back into the car, and pauses/resumes either side of a call.
The Bose speaker system holds up to scrutiny too, filling the car with loud, clear audio that sounds fantastic. Bose includes its optional center-point audio processing, which adjusts the various speaker settings to remove some of the directionality of the music and make it sound harmonious no matter where you’re speaking (rather than, say, louder from whichever speaker you’re closest to). It’s better suited to some musical types than others, we have to say; classical and pop benefited, with a more even quality to the audio, but rap and R’n’B lost some of their punchiness. Luckily it’s easy to switch on and off in the settings.
In the phone page, you can optionally download your phonebook to the car’s internal storage, for easier dialing of contacts, and set a number of speed dial favorites. However, the Mazda6 can also suck out your phone’s text messages, reading them out to you so that you needn’t take your hands of the wheel or your eyes off the road. We had no problems being heard on calls, even competing with 70mph road noise.
Unfortunately, the same speech clarity can’t be said for the voice control system. For the basics, hitting the button on the steering wheel and asking for a phone number works as you’d expect, but when you factor in the optional TomTom-powered navigation system, it becomes more frustrating. In theory, drivers should be able to say an address and have a list of search results shown on-screen, from which they can select by calling out the list number of the right option. In practice, most of the time we struggled to get the system to recognize the address we intended and, coupled with the lengthy pauses before search results were returned, we generally resorted to manually searching using the on-screen keyboard.
It’s a shame, because the TomTom system itself works well. If you’re familiar with one of the company’s standalone PNDs then the interface in the Mazda6 should present few surprises, with comprehensive mapping data, live traffic updates, automatic re-routing based on hold-ups further along your journey, and a huge database of points-of-interest. A range of voices and on-screen icons are available for guidance, with instructions cutting into music playback as the track temporarily fades in volume.
In the UK, the Mazda6 kicks off at £19,595 for the SE saloon with the 2.0l petrol engine, or £21,795 for the 2.2l diesel. The cheapest Tourer is the £22,545 SE 2.2l diesel. The 2.2l diesel Sport saloon we spent most time with begins at £25,495; you’ll pay a £1,200 premium for the auto gearbox.
As for the US version, the Sport sedan begins at $ 20,880 (pre-destination charges and other fees), while the Touring is from $ 24,495. The Grand Touring – which makes the Bose audio system, TomTom navigation, keyless entry, and other features usually part of the Touring “Technology Package” standard – begins at $ 29,495.
That makes the Mazda6 a little more expensive out of the gate than, say, a Ford Mondeo, but it also comes with a higher degree of standard specifications.
The old Mazda6 was, not to put too fine a point on it, forgettable. Seats and an engine in a box on some wheels. That the new Mazda6 surges off the forecourt with such eye-catching styling and on-road polish makes it a huge advance, and it’s one that in most areas punches above its price.
Curvaceous, swooping design makes the car distinctive and handsome, a welcome diversion from the Germanic crispness that seems to have proliferated among Volkswagen, GM, Ford and others. Only the somewhat frustrating usability of the in-cabin tech and the slightly less-than-gaping luggage opening (unless you opt for the Tourer) mar the experience. Meanwhile the driving experience is enough to make you forget you’re in a not-insubstantial four-door; we’d opt for the diesel engine and manual gearbox, if given the choice, which pairs decent economy with solid performance to match the capable chassis.
The BlackBerry Q10 might not have been the first BlackBerry 10 smartphone to reach the market, but with its classic QWERTY keyboard it’s arguably the first proper new BlackBerry. Blending the new OS with both a touchscreen and the sort of physical text-entry functionality that BlackBerry addicts have been swearing by for years, the Q10 promises to bridge the gap between the Brave New World of touch and those for whom stabbing out an email reply wouldn’t be complete without the crackle of tiny keys. Does that make it the missing link in smartphones, or just a bygone of an era that ought to be forgotten? Read on for our full review.
The Q10 may be outwardly very different from the first BlackBerry 10 device, the all-touch Z10, but internally it’s pretty much the same device. The 1.5GHz dualcore Snapdragon S4 Plus processor paired with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, are all identical, along with the microSD card slot, 8-megapixel rear camera, and 2-megapixel front camera. The Q10 also has WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC, along with a microHDMI port (which will need an adapter, not included, to plug into a regular HDMI input) alongside a microUSB port.
The key difference is obvious, however. Where the Z10 has a 4.2-inch 1280 x 768 display, the Q10 shrinks that down to 3.1-inches and 720 x 720 resolution; it also uses an AMOLED panel, rather than the LCD of the Z10. Using a smaller screen leaves room for the Q10′s four row keyboard – more on which in the next section – that spans the entire width of the phone.
Overall, it’s a broad but stubby device, at 2.62-inches across filing your palm more than the 2.58-inch Z10, but shorter at 4.7-inches. Accommodating a physical keyboard does make for a thicker phone, however, at 0.4-inches, and a slightly heavier one, at 4.9oz. The weight is nicely spread, however, meaning it doesn’t feel top-heavy when you’re typing, and it’s easy to shift your fingers between the QWERTY and the touchscreen.
BlackBerry’s traditional row of buttons in-between keyboard and display are missing on the Q10, which means the only other physical controls are the power/lock key on the top edge, and the volume controls on the right edge, flanking a voice-command button. The 3.5mm headphone socket is also on the top, while a reasonably sized speaker is on the bottom edge, meaning it won’t be blocked no matter whether the Q10 is placed face-up or face-down on the table.
We criticized the BlackBerry Z10 for its uninspiring aesthetic, which felt almost like the company had been so caught up in developing the OS, it had forgotten it needed to design hardware too. The Q10 uses the same dense black plastic, sturdy but lacking in the premium feel of the metal iPhone 5 or HTC One, but jazzes things up with a carbon fiber effect to the rear. Opinions on how successful that is were mixed; some thought it enlivened the Q10 up in a much-needed way, while others argued it makes the phone look relatively cheap. Still, the soft-touch finish is easily gripped.
Keyboards have been BlackBerry’s bread & butter for years, and have arguably kept the company afloat despite rival platforms steadily eclipsing BlackBerry 7. As you might expect, BlackBerry doesn’t mess with the formula too much on the Q10, the only real difference being the regimented layout that lacks the bow of previous models.
Curved or not, it’s a great keyboard to type on. One-handed, you can just cradle the Q10 with your middle and ring fingers and punch at it with your thumb; again, the excellent weight balance left us with no concerns the phone would tip out of our hand as we did so. Spare two hands and it’s even better, the Bold-style beveling to the key caps neatly cupping your thumbs and helping keep accuracy high. Altogether it’s a sturdy little thing, and we quickly got into the habit of punching replies and tweets on it.
The question is, of course, whether it’s better than the on-screen keyboard of the Z10. BlackBerry 10 does some interesting things with auto-prediction, notably floating the suggested words over the likely next letter and allowing you to select them with a simply flick of your fingertip, and it’s a system we found worked very well. Practically speaking, after getting accustomed to the Z10′s touch system, we were able to hit the same rate of text-entry as we could on the Q10, which suggests that, for the mainstream at least, having the flexibility of a bigger display may be more beneficial.
Software and Usability
BlackBerry 10 is a considerable improvement on the versions that came before it, combining elements of Android, Windows Phone, and iOS with the Canadian company’s own twists. We covered it comprehensively back in our Z10 review, which we’d recommend reading first. At its core are a new series of gestures which are used to navigate without a dedicated Home button, among other things. So, a swipe up from the bottom of the screen takes you back to the homescreen, while pulling your finger partway up – what BlackBerry calls the “Peek” gesture – pulls in first a column of notification icons, and then hops into the unified inbox.
It works well on the touch-exclusive Z10, but the layout of the Q10 can leave the gesture system feeling touch & go at times. The most common is the swipe-up with your thumb, but the proximity of the bottom of the touchscreen with the top keyboard row leaves little room to start your finger off in the right place. All too often we ended up tapping options or scrolling through lists rather than “Peeking”, with the Q10 assuming we were swiping the display rather than gesturing.
The solution seems to be actually starting your gesture from the keyboard itself, though we then had a few inadvertent text entry moments with that workaround. What we’re still not 100-percent convinced by is the usefulness of “Peek”; just as with the Z10, we found getting a glimpse of new notifications – i.e. that they exist, not any sort of detail as to what they are – simply wasn’t something that made a half-Peek worthwhile to us. As soon as the red LED light above the display started flashing, we swiped all the way across to the inbox instead.
Out of the box, the Q10 runs BlackBerry 10.1, a dot-one update on what the Z10 is using. The changes are minor, though side-by-side the Q10 feels a little more immediate than the occasionally laggardly all-touch phone. Biggest difference – and the one which perhaps takes best advantage of the hardware ‘board – is universal search actions, which allows you to trigger tasks like new messages, reminders, tweets, and more by typing straight into the search box.
It works particularly well on the Q10, because the universal search pops up as soon as you start hitting the keys. So, begin tying “Text XYZ” and at the top of the list there’ll be two options from your address book to send an SMS to. If you have more than one contact with the same name, or more than one number for the same contact, you can tap the expand button and see the full list of potential recipients.
The flip-side of all that usability is the relatively limited amount of screen real-estate for apps. At 3.2-inches and 720 x 720 resolution, the Q10 has a small display compared to what we’re used to from modern smartphones. The browser, for instance, supports everything you’d expect to show full webpages, but they’re crammed into a small window; BlackBerry 10 then makes the space even more confined with its persistent address/search bar running along the bottom. Whereas the page title only shows when you swipe down from the top edge, the bar for switching tabs and entering URLs is fixed, unnecessarily taking up space.
With the same camera hardware as the Z10, it comes as little surprise that, for the most part, the Q10 puts in an identical photography showing. That’s unfortunately not among the best devices we’ve tested in recent months: colors are somewhat drab in all but the best outdoor lighting, but zoom in or step into a lower-light situation and the noise starts to make itself known.
Similarly, video recording at up to 1080p is supported, but you’ll want to be filming it during daylight hours if you don’t want noise and artifacts.
BlackBerry 10.1 adds an HDR camera mode, which fashions images with better dynamic range out of two shots taken in rapid succession. If you’ve a sufficiently steady hand, it works, spitting out images where detail in darker and brighter areas is more clearly visible.
However, we found the HDR mode to be more susceptible to shake than similar settings on rival phones, and even a little movement could ruin a frame with ghosting. There’s also the ability to shoot stills in 1:1 aspect ratio, which certainly fits the Q10′s own display, but look a little strange everywhere else.
Phone and Battery
Many smartphones seldom get asked to make more than the odd voice call, but BlackBerry knows its audience demands solid voice quality and enough volume to serve impromptu speakerphone use. We had no problems with dropped calls, testing on Vodafone’s 3G network, and the positioning of the speaker – on the bottom edge – meant that speakerphone calls came through loud and clear.
Battery life is also impressive. The Q10 uses a removable 2,100 mAh pack that’s plenty large enough given the relatively compact screen. BlackBerry has even taken advantage included some darker color schemes for BlackBerry 10 apps, to take advantage of the fact that AMOLED uses less power for dimmer parts of the display.
The upshot is a phone which will last the full day without pausing for breath. BlackBerry quotes up to 13.5hrs of 3G talk time or up to 14.8 days of 3G standby (or up to 60hrs of solid music playback); in practice, with push email turned on, and regular use of the browser, camera, multimedia playback, and other apps, we made it to the evening with juice to spare.
Choices are slim if you’re in the market for a smartphone with a physical keyboard. The rise of all-touch, the flexibility of a big display, and the growing accuracy of on-screen keyboards means that the usability arguments for taking up half your fascia with a QWERTY layout are slimmer than ever. That’s not to say the audience is nonexistent, but it’s certainly smaller than it once was, and physical buttons no longer mean the most productive device.
BlackBerry is a company still very much in transition, and trying to find its feet in the process. For existing users, the Q10 is an obvious upgrade: it’s the best QWERTY BlackBerry to-date, BlackBerry 10 is a solid step up from what came before it (even if there are still plenty of rough edges), and the tactile key-feel they covet is there in spades. For that group, only the combination of BlackBerry software and a hardware ‘board will do.
Problem is, that group is also a shrinking one, and what were previously the inescapable advantages of a QWERTY device – like unsurpassed typing accuracy – are no longer so clean-cut. Typing on the BlackBerry keyboard is great, but then so is typing on the Z10′s clever software keyboard, and indeed most other modern smartphones. That leaves the Q10 feeling a lot like a sop to keep the old-school users happy, while the rest of the market goes in a different direction. If you’re wedded to keys then the Q10 is the BlackBerry – and potentially the smartphone, period – for you, but for the everyone else it’s more like proof that the days of physical keyboards are behind us.
The nightly recharge is a fact of life with most modern smartphones, and the HTC One is no different, but what if you could double your runtime and protect your expensive new toy in the process? That’s what Mophie promises from the Juice Pack for the HTC One, a combination external battery and hard case that, when wrapped around your phone, should let even the most ambitious power-user escape the tyranny of the charger. All that flexibility comes at a price, however: $ 99.95 and a considerably larger device in your pocket. Is the Mophie Juice Pack worth the compromise? Read on for our full review.
Mophie has been making battery-cases for smartphones for years now, focusing on the iPhone and iPod touch; its line-up for Android phones is a lot smaller, with device-specific models only for the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S III (though the company offers generic portable batteries, too). The concept is straightforward, being a hard case that’s enlarged to accommodate a rechargeable power pack, that can be used to top up the internal battery in your phone.
For the HTC One, that means a 2.88 x 6.06 x 0.67 inch soft-touch plastic sled which adds 3.12 ounces to the weight of the phone (to compare, the One alone is 2.69 x 5.41 x 0.37 inches and 5.05 ounces). Black and silver versions will eventually be offered, to match the two finishes of the One itself, though only the black Juice Pack was available in time for our review.
More on the HTC One in our full review
Inside, there’s a 2,500 mAh battery, 200 mAh larger than the One’s own battery, charged from a standard microUSB port on the bottom of the case. That simultaneously charges the One, too, thanks to a pass-through microUSB connection which is plugged in when you slide the phone inside. It’s a snug fit, involving pulling off the Mophie’s top cap, slotting the One into the groove, and gently pushing it all the way into place; once the case is closed up again, there’s no wiggle or movement.
Although the sides and rear of the One are covered up, you still get access to all the ports and buttons. Pass-through controls for the power/standby key on top and the volume keys on the side are included – slightly oversized, which works well with gloved fingers, and the power button is IR-transparent so you can use the HTC TV remote control app still – and there’s a hole for the headphone socket too. The cut-out is big enough for most jacks, though if you’re using a set of headphones with an oversized plug, you might find the case gets in the way.
On the back, there’s a big cut-out for the UltraPixel camera and LED flash, along with a hole for the rear microphone. Flanking the microUSB port on the bottom edge are four connectors for a docking station (which we didn’t have to test). The only controls are a button to show battery status – using a row of four white LEDs – on the lower back of the Mophie, with a switch to turn on or off the flow of juice.
Usability and Performance
Make no mistake, once the One is in the Juice Pack you’re left with a big device. It’s almost comically large, in fact: the bowed back panel fills your palm, and while the soft-touch finish is pleasant to touch, the Juice Pack does make the One feel somewhat like the digital signature gadgets couriers tend to carry. If you’re in the habit of dropping your phone in your front jeans pocket, or your inside jacket pocket, you’ll immediately notice the difference.
It also feels like Mophie missed an opportunity to build some extra functionality into that expanse of plastic. HTC’s BoomSound speakers are usefully left exposed, for instance, and so a kickstand would have been an neat addition to prop the One up for hands-free video use.
Still, the Juice Pack certainly does what it promises to. Mophie recommends waiting until your One is at around 20-percent, and then flicking the switch to take the phone back up to around 80-percent; it takes more power to recharge a completely flat battery, or to top-up a battery until it’s entirely full. In our testing the Juice Pack took roughly around the same amount of time to recharge the One as the HTC adapter would.
In theory, you should be able to get a full recharge out of a single blast of the Juice Pack. In practice, following Mophie’s guidelines means it’s more like you’re doing a couple of periodic top-ups rather than going from zero to full. Still, with judicious control of the power switch and typical use of the One, we saw runtimes just short of the Mophie’s maximum 100-percent improvement.
At $ 99.95, the Juice Pack isn’t the cheapest case or the cheapest external battery. If protection is what you’re after, there are far more form-fitting soft or hard cases on the market, priced from around $ 10; HTC’s own Double Dip Hard Shell for the One is $ 24.99, for instance.
Meanwhile, if you’re willing to sacrifice the integration, there are portable batteries with far more capacity than the Juice Pack provides. HTC offers the External Battery Bank (BB G600), for instance, a $ 50 block roughly akin to an oversized Zippo, and which – with 6,000 mAh to play with – could recharge your One twice before it needed topping up itself.
Then there’s the lifespan of the Juice Pack itself. Mophie rates the case for “over 500 full cycles” of 0-percent to 100-percent, after which point the battery inside “may provide less than 75-percent of the original capacity.” To be fair, that’s par for the course for any Li-Poly rechargeable battery, but it could mean that one day you’re carrying a heavy case that doesn’t really deliver in terms of a lasting charge. Whether that comes before the average two-year agreement is up, and you’re already thinking of getting a new phone, will depend on how much you use it.
There are cheaper ways to protect and charge your phone. A separate case and external battery will generally provide more runtime and a more easily pocketed handset. On the flip side, the best portable battery is the one you have on you when you’re running low on power, and the converged solution Mophie offers scores highly on that measure.
For some, the extra bulk the Juice Pack adds will be a deal-breaker. Certainly, it makes the One a big device, but if you’re a power-user the promise of up to double the runtime is a huge advantage, and we can’t really fault Mophie’s design for accommodating the One’s controls and features.
This week we’ve had the opportunity to have a look at Tech21′s Impact Shield smartphone screen protector technology in the form of it’s iPhone 5 and Samsung GALAXY S 4 iterations. This product works with three layers of shielding, each of them working with slightly different features for an overall 80 percent lessening of impact by objects aimed at your smartphone’s screen.
While in the past working with screen protectors that are anything thicker than a simple super-thin layer of plastic, it’s been a toss-up whether or not they’d do what they said they would, here Tech21 appears to come through. The final product does appear disperse impact and protect the screen while touch sensitivity remains.
NOTE: As a special experiment / treat, we’re recorded the hands-on of this product’s application process with Google Glass. The photo at the head of this article also comes straight #throughglass, is it were. Take heed – this video also appears in an expanded Google Glass in action review of the wearable technology’s abilities, specifically its camera.
The technology inside this screen protector is what Tech21 describes as their most advanced implementation of display shielding yet. The first layer works to spread the impact force of whatever’s aimed at your device’s screen. The third (closest to the screen) layer is a soft base, further absorbing the impact force of a blow.
The middle layer is the most interesting – or at least the most interestingly titled. Here we’ve got the BulletShield impact protection layer using BASF absorption polymer technology. BASF is also known as “The Chemical Company” and is, not coincidentally, the largest chemical company in the world. This layer provides non-yellowing UV protection with absorption polymer also used in bulletproof glazing.
Thus far this shielding has held up every bit as well as the other Tech21 products we’ve tested, including the orange goo you’ll remember from some months ago. Have a peek at a demo we received at the hands of Tech21′s CEO with a hammer, Tech21 Impactology excellence, and a human hand. You’ll certainly not regret having done so.
Also note that this multi-layer screen protector system is out there in the wild for your pocket in several iterations right this minute. For $ 29.99 MSRP you’ll find the Tech21 Impact Shield for the Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung GALAXY S 4, Apple iPhone 5, and Samsung Galaxy Note II as well. We’ll keep you updated on the spread of this shield to other devices soon as well – stay tuned!
Tech21 Impact Shield for GALAXY S 4 and iPhone 5 Review is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
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