Posts Tagged ‘Software’

HTC Desire 820s review: You can skip this one

March 27th, 2015

Taiwanese tech major HTC is one company that takes the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” saying way too seriously. While it may be able to get away with this in the case of its high-end premium devices, the same may not always hold true for its mid-range and budget offerings.

Fans, enthusiasts and even critics have been extremely critical about HTC’s recently launched One M9, saying the company has not done enough to inspire a ‘wow’ element in its latest flagship. That said it may not matter much in the end because the M9 appears to be quite well-endowed, at least on paper.

Sadly, it’s the company’s mid-range and budget handsets that fail to grab an eyeball, which eventually leads to poor sales. The company does bring out some decent handsets in this segment from time to time, but the recently launched Desire 820s doesn’t seem to be one of them.

Priced at Rs.22,600, the Desire 820S has some real tough competition to crack. That said this is now the third smartphone in a series that includes the Desire 820 and Desire 820Q. There’s a problem though: not much has changed in the hardware department, save the processor. And that change is not exactly for the good.

Let us explain.

Design and build quality

HTC undoubtedly comes out with some really good looking devices. This is one area where we don’t really care about HTC “copying” itself from time to time because the design of its phones is so good. But three times in a row seems a little too much, even to those who may have an affinity for HTC phones.

The Desire 820s is not a bad-looking device. It looks pretty cool with its double-tone colour scheme. But the design is old. It is the same design that began with the Desire 820 and continues unabashed with the Desire 820s. If you keep the Desire 820, 820Q and 820s side by side, you just can’t differentiate between them: they all look exactly the same.

Rest assured you get HTC’s trademark double shot design that looks youthful and funky. While it retains the sharp contours of HTC’s premium One range, it makes its Desire identity clear by sporting glossy plastic throughout.

While it does pass of as a near-premium handset, competitors in this price range give you metal — or at least a dash of metal — something that we would have liked HTC to try for a change (even a little bit here and there would have sufficed).

The glossy plastic body of the Desire 820s doesn’t look cheap and is not prone to smudge/fingerprint unless you have greasy fingers. The device is pretty pleasant to hold and comfortable to grip.

At 157.7 x 78.7 x 7.7 mm and 155 grams, the Desire 820s is certainly not a small device. It is considerably larger than the One (M8), the Samsung Galaxy S5, even the LG G3 and stands nearly as tall as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

It is larger than the OnePlus One (another 5.5-incher) but is only marginally heavier than the Xiaomi Mi 4 (a 5-incher).

Although HTC continues to opt for thick bezels around the screen, it’s remarkable how lightweight the Desire 820s is so that one-handed operability is not a challenge on the device.

The right edge houses the volume rocker and the power button. Although build of plastic, these buttons are firm and well placed, offering decent tactile feedback. It’s sadly missing out on a dedicated camera button.

The left-edge has two nano-SIM card slots and a microSD card slot, both of which are covered by a single protective flap.

Display

The Desire 820s also retains the display (both size and resolution are same) found in the Desire 820 and Desire 820Q.

You get a 5.5-inch HD capacitive touchscreen display with a 720 x 1280 pixels resolution that roughly translates to 267ppi.

A year ago, these numbers would have created quite a flutter among buyers but not anymore. Full 1080p screens in this price bracket are common. Look at it this way, under Rs.10,000 devices like the Yu Yureka and Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 4G offer you similar display hardware as the Desire 820s. HTC’s offering therefore appears to be a rather expensive affair if you consider the display resolution and pixel density parameters.

What hurts the Desire 820s further is that it is also costlier than the Desire 820 and Desire 820Q but it’s still carrying that older display.

The quality of the display is good though. Although, a 720p resolution on a 5.5-inch screen does occasionally show off its limitations in term of evident pixilation of icons, the display is fairly crisp and bright.

Colours look good and punchy with good saturation levels. Viewing angles are pretty decent here with discoloration not very prominent upon viewing from different angles.

Software

The Desire 820s runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat out-of-the-box with the company’s older Sense 5 UI on top. While the whole latest KitKat thing may seem cool and all (we hear a Lollipop update is on the cards too), software side is another area where we feel HTC has made a huge compromise with this one.

HTC has used the older Sense 5 UI in the Desire 820s, something that we feel could have avoided. HTC’s Sense user interface is one of the better ones we’ve seen in the business over the years. It integrates with Android well, giving you a smooth stutter-free experience, which is also pleasing to the eyes, and is every bit functional.

But we think that this is a phone that should have come with the HTC’s Sense 6 UI.

While features like BlinkFeed news aggregator work all too fine, lack of Sense 6 means the Desire 820s is missing out on so many key essentials, particularly a battery saving mode and motion gestures. For a device that costs over Rs.20,000, dated software doesn’t quite fit well with the equation.

Performance

Processing power is the only area that has received a fresh coat of paint in the case of Desire 820s in comparison to the Desire 820 and Desire 820Q. However, instead of going for a more potent processor, HTC has decided to pack in a rather humble MediaTek chipset inside the Desire 820s.

The Desire 820s is powered by a 1.7GHz octa-core Cortex-A53 (MT6752) CPU coupled with Mali-T760MP2 GPU and 2GB RAM. These are certainly not very encouraging numbers, especially since the cheaper Desire 820 comes with a Snapdragon 615 SoC, which offers better performance.

Nevertheless, the MediaTek (64-bit capable) chipset on board the Desire 820s handles everyday tasks with ease and we did not witness any evident lag while opening/closing of apps. The device usually gives lag-free experience. That is until you decide to play a game or two on this.

The device can run GPU intensive games like Asphalt 8: Airborne, Modern Combat 5 but there is lag if you are playing the games with graphics settings at maximum. Toning down graphics does give you better frame rates.

One key issue with playing demanding games — or while watching full-HD videos — is that the device heats up very fast. And substantially. For example, once while playing a video we saw the temperature of the battery go up from 26 degrees to 44 degrees Celsius in minutes. The rise in heat inside the phone is such that even when the ambient temperature is around 20 degrees, you can feel the extremely hot back cover on the Desire 820s while playing games.

The Desire 820s comes with 16GB of internal storage of which about 12.24GB is available for use. The device supports expandable storage of up to 32GB via micro-SD card and also gives you an option to install apps directly on the same.

The two BoomSound speakers on the front of the device justify their “boom” tag. They are among the loudest and punchiest we’ve heard in a smartphone. Peak loudness is a little lower when compared with the likes of the One (M8), but there is no doubt that the 820s is one of the better phones when it comes to playing music.

Phone calls made with the Desire 820s are of acceptable quality and we did not see any call drops with our review device. Since the upper BoomSound speaker acts as your ear-piece, the sound output is loud and clear on the device so much so that we were forced into lowering its volume output while on call.

The Desire 820s is future proof since it supports 4G LTE, just like the Desire 820 and Desire 820Q.

Camera

The Desire 820s sports a 13-megapixel rear camera with autofocus and LED flash. It also comes with an 8-megapixel front-facing snapper.

Most of HTC’s Desire range devices come with cameras that have good autofocus capabilities, as well as really good shutter speed. Sadly, that’s not the case with the Desire 820s. In fact we had to ask ourselves repeatedly if this was at all an HTC handset. That’s saying a lot about the Desire 820s, and its camera performance.

While using the device we found it has rather slow focus and shutter mechanism.

The rear camera can shoot decent photos in well-lit conditions. They have good detail, not the best, but satisfactory. There were some metering issues that we encountered here and there. In some scenes we found that it underexposed the images. Also colors looked a bit dull in most of the images that we shot with the device.

The level of detail that the camera captures goes down in lower light and noise is more visible. While, photos clicked in well-lit indoor situations were passable, those clicked in low light were downright disappointing as the level of noise was far too much.

Selfies clicked by the front camera are only passable, with noise evident on most counts, save when there is very good ambient lighting.

Nevertheless, they are good enough for your Facebook and Instagram feeds.

The problem with the camera of the Desire 820s is that it doesn’t even match the camera performance of the Desire 816 and the Desire 820. And these two devices cost less.

Also, rivals like the Xiaomi Mi 4 and OnePlus One pack in some pretty amazing cameras for their price, something that makes the Desire 820ss quite the odd man out in the crowd.

Both the cameras on the Desire 820s can shoot full-HD videos at 30fps. They have evident noise though.

Check the following image samples to get an idea of HTC Desire 820s Camera performance: Sample 1, Sample 2, Sample 3, Sample 4, Sample 5, Sample 6, Sample 7, Sample 8, Sample 9, Sample 10.

Battery

The Desire 820s comes with a 2600mAh non-removable battery, which is rated to deliver up to 12 hours of talk time and 560 hours on stand-by (on 3G), according to the company.

Keeping the numbers aside, battery output of the Desire 820s doesn’t seem one that inspires confidence. In our battery benchmark, we subjected the device to almost an hour of gaming (graphics intensive), one and a half hours of full-HD video playback, some web browsing (desktop mode), music on speakers (max volume) and phone calls every now and then and we got almost 4 hours out of the device.

Video playback and graphics intensive gaming really takes toll on the battery life, while music playback on speakers doesn’t affect it much.

Still, the Desire 820s doesn’t boast of a satisfactory battery life for its price, and heating issues add to its woes.

Normal usage will see it sail through an entire day, since the device has some decent standby output.

Should you buy it?

The resounding answer is a no. You might want to steer clear of this one. There were times when we felt the urge to ask ourselves, why HTC even bothered to make this one, especially when the competition today is so fierce.

The HTC Desire 820s doesn’t have one compelling feature that would make us want to recommend it to buyers. While the processor gives you a decent performance at its price, consumers today have an option to go beyond the ‘decent’ tag and indulge in more powerful devices: predominantly the Mi 4 and the OnePlus One.

If you’re an HTC fan, you can opt for the Desire 820, which is priced lower and is a considerably better performer in all major departments than this one. As for the Desire 820s, you should definitely skip it.

Source:http://indiatoday.intoday.in/technology/story/htc-desire-820s-review-you-can-skip-this-one/1/425972.html

Voyage review: Best e-book reader ever but not a recommended buy

March 27th, 2015

Nowadays, when it comes to e-book readers, it is a market dominated by one company — Amazon. At least, in India this is how it is. The reason is simple: Kindle e-book readers are really good at their job. Combined with the thousands of e-books that Amazon has in its ecosystem, this means for consumers the Kindle experience is seamless and most of the time almost flawless.

So how do you improve on this experience year after year? That is a question Amazon asks itself every year and comes out with something new. On some occasions this new thing is completely new. On some, it is just an improved version of the earlier product.
In a way, the Kindle Voyage, which was launched in India on March 25, is something that we can call completely new. It is also the finest e-book reader Amazon, or for that matter probably any other company, has made so far. In terms of an e-book reader it is as good as it gets.

Yet, we don’t give it our full recommendation. It is not a better buy compared to other e-readers in the market. Confused? Don’t be. We explain.

Design and build quality

Design and build quality is one area where the Voyage differs from earlier Kindles in a significant way.

It is still the same old Kindle, light, compact and easy to hold in hand. But every design aspect has been improved. With weight of around 180 grams, this is the lightest Kindle Amazon has made. It is also smaller than other Kindles by several millimetres in its height and width. But thickness is where you see the biggest change. Compared to the Kindle Paperwhite that has a thickness of over 9mm, the Voyage is 7.6mm thick.

The reduced dimensions and weight make the Kindle Voyage extremely easy to use for long durations, even when you are holding it in front of you while lying down on bed.

Unlike the Paperwhite which has a curvy design with rounded sides, the Voyage has more angular lines. The back is not entirely flat in the Voyage. It is flat in the centre but on the each sides it breaks into slopes to create angular lines. The new design doesn’t significantly affect how you hold the device. The more rounded edges of the Paperwhite fit more seamlessly into the hand but the difference is very subtle. We doubt that even the long-time Paperwhite users will find the design of the Voyage any bad or better from usability perspective.

The two other usability changes in design in the Voyage are the placement of power button and the capacitive touch-sensitive bezels on the left and right side of the screen. The power button has been now moved to the back. In fact, it sits almost directly under the index finger when you hold the Voyage in hand. This is definitely a better placement for the power button compared to the bottom edge near the microUSB port. Though if you are already using some other Kindle it will take you a day or two to get used to the new power button placement.

The touch-sensitive buttons on the two sides of the screen can be used to turn pages. While there is nothing wrong with touching screen to turn the page, similar to how it is done on the Paperwhite, the touch buttons on the Voyage do give readers one more way to control how they read an e-book. It is like the SWYPE feature found on phone keyboards. Some people love “SWYPING” while others keep on using the normal way to type.

With the Voyage, Amazon is also changing how it makes the Kindle bodies. Unlike the all-plastic Kindles of the past, the Voyage has some metal and glass in its body. The main frame is made of magnesium, which is very light and durable. On the top, however, there is a patch of glossy plastic, possibly to make sure there are no network related issues that come with all-metal bodies. The finish is still soft-to-touch and that feels good in hand. This finish also makes sure that the device is not going to collect greasy smudges, except in the part where glossy plastic is used.

On the front, the screen is covered with glass, which makes it feel smoother to touch. In comparison, the screens of other Kindles, including Paperwhite, use plastic layer and feel slightly rougher to touch.

Overall, the Voyage is a big step up from earlier Kindles in terms of design the materials used to make it. Though how much consumers should be willing to pay for these improvements is a question we will answer in a while.

Performance and experience

On a Kindle, the user experience is mostly dominated by three things: Screen, design and processor. We have already talked about the design. And while there is nothing really wrong with the Paperwhite, the Voyage is an improvement.

But it is the screen and overall performance that makes it standout. Amazon says that the Voyage has a higher resolution display compared to the Paperwhite — 300PPI vs 212PPI — and that shows. The display still uses e-ink and is black-and-white (exactly how it should be on an e-reader), but the screen is noticeably sharper. The text looks extremely crisp on Voyage and for a device that is meant to display e-books, this is a big improvement.

The screen is also brighter. E-ink panels don’t reflect the light the way LCD screens do so the benefit of extra brightness are not all that apparent here but compared to the Paperwhite screen, it is easy to see that Voyage is more bright, with more even backlight. The Voyage screen also comes with the inbuilt ambient light sensor so the brightness is adjusted automatically. Though in practice, we found that it is a nice feature to have but not exactly something that demands a premium. On a Kindle, where only one type of content is going to be displayed, manually setting the brightness is not a problem.

In terms of performance, the Voyage is noticeably faster than the Paperwhite. In fact, it is the fastest e-book reader we have seen so far. The pages turn with very minimal lag, books open quickly and scrolling is fairly fast. Of course, we are dealing with an e-screen here so the refresh lag is still visible. But it is as low as we have ever seen in device with e-screen display.

The Kindle Voyage uses Amazon’s proprietary software and connects to Amazon’s huge ecosystem. In most cases, if you can think of a book, there is a possibility that you can buy it from Amazon and download it on Kindle. The software is easy to use and has features like “highlight word to search” and “Whispersync”, which syncs your reading progress across devices.

The battery life of the Voyage is classic Kindle, which means you don’t have to worry too much about it. Once charged, the devices lasts around 7-8 days or so if you are reading something on it daily. If you are doing weekend reading — 6 to 7 hours daily — the Voyage needs recharging after 2-3 days.

Should you buy it

Did we say that the Kindle Voyage is the best Kindle Amazon has made so far? Yes, we did. The Voyage is a fantastic e-book reader. Unfortunately, for an e-Book reader, it is also fantastically expensive. In fact, it is so expensive that we don’t think it justifies its price of Rs.16,499 and Rs.20,499 (3G) version.

The Kindle Voyage is for people who demand absolute best, irrespective of the price. If you consider yourself such person, go ahead and get the Voyage. You will be fully satisfied with it. It does what it is supposed to do in a way that no other device can match.

But for most of the people, the Kindle Paperwhite (Wi-Fi) is a more sensible choice. The Paperwhite, with a price of Rs.10,999, may not be the best Kindle but it is the best value for money Kindle something that Voyage is not.

Source:http://indiatoday.intoday.in/technology/story/voyage-review-best-e-book-reader-ever-but-not-a-recommended-buy/1/425976.html

An SDN Vulnerability Forced OpenDaylight to Focus on Security

March 27th, 2015

Open-source software projects are often well intended, but security can take a back seat to making the code work.

Open-source software projects are often well intended, but security can take a back seat to making the code work.

OpenDaylight, the multivendor software-defined networking (SDN) project, learned that the hard way last August after a critical vulnerability was found in its platform.

It took until December for the flaw, called Netdump, to get patched, a gap in time exacerbated by the fact that the project didn’t yet have a dedicated security team. After he tried and failed to get in touch with OpenDaylight, the finder of the vulnerability, Gregory Pickett, posted it on Bugtraq, a popular mailing list for security flaws.

Although OpenDaylight is still in the early stages and generally isn’t used in production environments, the situation highlighted the need to put a security response process in place.

“It’s actually a surprisingly common problem with open-source projects,” said David Jorm, a product security engineer with IIX who formed OpenDaylight’s security response team. “If there are not people with a strong security background, it’s very common that they won’t think about providing a mechanism for reporting vulnerabilities.”

The OpenDaylight project was launched in April 2013 and is supported by vendors including Cisco Systems, IBM, Microsoft, Ericsson and VMware. The aim is to develop networking products that remove some of the manual fiddling that administrators still need to do with controllers and switches.

Having a common foundation for those products would help with compatibility, as enterprises often use a variety of networking equipment from many vendors.

Security will be an integral component of SDN, since a flaw could have devastating consequences. By compromising an SDN controller — a critical component that tells switches how data packets should be forwarded — an attacker would have control over the entire network, Jorm said.

“It’s a really high value target to go after,” Jorm said.

The Netdump flaw kicked OpenDaylight into action, and now there is a security team in place from a range of vendors who represent different projects within OpenDaylight, Jorm said.

OpenDaylight’s technical steering committee also recently approved a detailed security response process modeled on one used by the OpenStack Foundation, Jorm said.

If a vulnerability is reported privately and not publicly disclosed, some OpenDaylight stakeholders — even those who do not have a member on the security team — will get pre-notification so they have a chance to develop a patch, Jorm said. That kind of disclosure is rare, though it is becoming more common with open-source projects.

The idea is that once a flaw is disclosed, vendors will generally be on the same page and release a patch around the same time, Jorm said.

OpenDaylight’s security response process is “quite well ironed out now,” Jorm said.

Source:http://www.channelworld.in/features/an-sdn-vulnerability-forced-opendaylight-to-focus-on-security

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