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Google Pixel 2 review: Is Google's iPhone 8 challenger the Android phone to beat?

Nathan Spendelow

5 hours 16 min ago
Price when reviewed 

Google’s inevitable iPhone 8 riposte has arrived. Following the success of the iPhone 7-beating Pixel last year, it was obvious Google would once again follow suit. And again, the Pixel 2 is primed to make the same hard-hitting statement this year: there’s still a spot for Android in your pocket.

READ NEXT: Best smartphones of 2017 (so far)

Google Pixel 2 review: What you need to know

The Pixel 2 is Google’s latest Android flagship. The successor to last year’s excellent Pixel handset, this is the smartphone that’s primed to set the benchmark for Android phones for the next 12 months.

Buy Google Pixel 2 from Carphone Warehouse

Out on 19 October 2017, the Google Pixel 2 is a 5in smartphone with an AMOLED screen and a 20-megapixel rear camera that, according to the folks at DxOMark, is the best in its class.

The latest Snapdragon 835 processor powers things, complete with 4GB of RAM and a choice of either 64GB or 128GB of non-expandable storage.

Google Pixel 2 review: Price and competition

At £629 for the 64GB model and £729 for the 128GB variant, Google’s second Pixel-branded smartphone doesn’t come cheap. However, since it’s a smaller 5in phone, there’s not quite as much direct competition as you might expect for the Pixel 2.

You have the iPhone 8, which has a 4.7in screen and costs £699, the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact with a 4.6in display for £499 and that’s about it for the big manufacturers. It’s worth considering the Samsung Galaxy S8 in the same bracket, too; although the screen is larger at 5.8in it’s only fractionally larger than the Google Pixel 2, and it’s cheaper as well, at around £500 currently.

Google Pixel 2 review: Design

If you’re already familiar with last year’s effort, 2017’s design won’t come as much of a surprise. Both the Pixel 2 and its plus-sized sibling keep the divisive two-tone glass and metal rear of their predecessors, although the glass strip at the top is much slimmer than before, occupying roughly an eighth of its behind.

You’ll still find the circular fingerprint reader on the back, along with a solitary USB Type-C port on the bottom for charging. On the left-hand edge sits both the power button and volume rocker.

Are we missing something? Yep, the Pixel 2 doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack – a startling move given Google’s mockery of Apple last year. You better get familiar with the supplied USB-C to 3.5mm adapter, or invest in a decent pair of Bluetooth headphones. At least Google’s latest phone has IP67 dust- and water-resistance, a feature last year’s Pixel lacked.

There’s also Google’s “Active Edge”, with which you can activate Google Assistant without pressing a single button. It’s basically the same as the HTC U11’s squeezy feature, but with machine learning behind it that can tell a deliberate squeeze from an accidental one.

Google Pixel 2 review: Performance and battery life

Despite rumours suggesting otherwise, the Pixel 2 is powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 processor, as opposed to the as-yet-unannounced Snapdragon 836 chipset. That’s not to say the 835 isn’t welcome; most of 2017’s best phones are all powered by it.

The processor works in tandem with 4GB of RAM and a choice of either 64GB or 128GB of storage. Like last year, there’s no microSD expansion, but you’ll find a 3,520mAh battery on the inside, up from last year’s 2,770mAh.

It’s no surprise then, that the Pixel 2 is a rapid performer. It’s quicker than last year’s Pixel, naturally and at least as quick as most of its rivals; the only phone it lags behind is the Apple iPhone 8 Plus. Here’s how the Pixel 2 performed in the Geekbench 4 multi- and single-core CPU tests:

Likewise, the Pixel 2's graphics performance is more than good enough to handle anything you can download from Google Play. As you should be able to see from the graph below, it’s once again as quick as its rivals and slower than the iPhone 8 Plus. The only outlier is the Galaxy S8, which has more pixels to render per frame than the Pixel and thus is slightly slower in the “onscreen” (native resolution) test.

It’s battery life that’s the most important aspect of performance, though, and here the Pixel 2 is a bit of a mixed bag. In our video rundown battery life test, with the screen calibrated to 170cd/m2 brightness and flight mode switched on, the Pixel 2 lasted 14hrs 17mins. For reference, that's four hours longer than the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, but slightly behind last year’s Pixel and a long way short of the Samsung Galaxy S8. But it performed well in real-world use, dipping to just 30% after a snap-happy Sunday at Kew Gardens.

Should the Pixel 2 fall flat, though, Google’s latest charges quickly. After 30 minutes of charging from zero, battery levels reached 44%, and after just 1hr and 20mins the Pixel 2 was fully charged. It can’t quite match the OnePlus 5’s rapidity in this regard, but it’s pretty nippy nonetheless.

Google Pixel 2 review: Software and features

Software-wise, not too much has changed from last year’s Pixel. It’s running stock Android Oreo – which has made an appearance on the original Pixel – but it doesn’t include any real, impactful changes.

Picture-in-picture is the major development here, a feature focussed on multitasking that lets you keep one app, for example Netflix, in a small floating window while checking your email (or anything else you fancy) full-screen.

One of the cooler new features makes cut-and-paste much easier, through a feature called Smart Text Select. This automatically recognises items like phone numbers, place names and addresses, making it easier to select what you need quickly with a single tap.

Buy Google Pixel 2 from Carphone Warehouse

And finally we have Google Lens, which is all about analysing live images rather than static ones, interpreting everyday objects like buildings, flowers and signs and providing information on them as you point the camera at them. Just like with Samsung’s own Bixby, Lens should recognise what you’re pointing your camera at and offer to perform follow-up actions on that information. I say should, because as it stands Lens struggles a bit, identifying London’s famous BT Tower as simply a “control tower” and a bottle of red wine as “liqueur”.

Google Pixel 2 review: Display

The Pixel 2 doesn’t come equipped with the same edge-to-edge 2K display of the bigger, Pixel 2 XL; instead, we’re treated to a regular 5in Full HD (1,080 x 1,920) AMOLED panel with a regular 16:9 aspect ratio, bezels and all. Have a read of my Pixel 2 XL review, though, and you’ll find that this is in fact, a good thing.

Unlike the original Pixel, you can choose from either “standard” or “vibrant” display profiles in the phone’s settings. The former produces more accurate-looking colours, while the latter had a tendency to oversaturate colours – but not by much.

Both modes are reasonably colour accurate. The “standard” profile is the better of the two, with our X-Rite colour calibrator returning an average Delta E of 1.71 (0 is perfect) and is a much better display than the 2 XL’s display with its viewing-angle problems.

It’s reasonably readable in bright sunlight, too. A circular polarising layer helps to reduce glare while peak brightness reaches 410cd/m2. That’s not as bright as the Samsung Galaxy S8 achieves, though, so expect to do some screen shading in really bright conditions. Given this is an AMOLED panel, though, at least contrast is perfect, which means both movies and photos benefit from plenty of pop.

Google Pixel 2 review: Camera

Last, but certainly not least, top the camera. Here, we’re treated to an almost identical 12-megapixel rear snapper to last year’s, but with a wider f/1.8 aperture that has both optical and electronic image stabilisation for seriously stable shots.

Given the wider aperture, the Pixel 2’s low-light performance is simply stunning, wrestling away its predecessor’s crown in one swift strike. If anything, the colours are slightly less rich than the original’s efforts, but it outperforms its predecessor more neutral and accurate colour representation.

White balance is slightly off, leaving us with pictures that looked slightly warmer than they should be, but there’s a noticeable improvement over last year’s Pixel. The original tended to wash over the image with a yellow-ish tint, but the same ill effect hasn’t reappeared.

Where the Pixel 2 also impresses is in outdoor shots. In good light, the Pixel 2 produced pictures with superb dynamic range and colour saturation, while the white balance was much more accurate. The Pixel really does set a brand new smartphone photography benchmark, distancing itself even further from both its predecessor and Samsung’s excellent Galaxy S8.

There’s also a handful of new shooting features too, including “motion photo”, which captures a brief section of video to go with your still shots, and a portrait mode, which replicated the blurred “bokeh” background effect you get when shooting with a DSLR.

Meanwhile, the same can’t be said about its video capabilities. 4K capture is crisp and bursting with detail, but the Pixel 2 suffers from some very odd-looking colours. Across the palate, colours are hyper-saturated, and detail capture is noticeably softer than both the S8 and last year’s effort.

Google Pixel 2 review: Verdict

Once again, Google is leading the Android charge. It might be sticking with same uninspired design as last year's – and lacks the bezel-less display of its supersized sibling – but a much-needed processor upgrade and welcome camera improvements has seen the Pixel 2 rocket to the top of our smartphone hierarchy.

Posted on 17 October 2017 | 7:28 am


Google Pixel 2 XL review: Google’s supersized, bezel-less flagship has one HUGE flaw

Nathan Spendelow

5 hours 16 min ago
Price when reviewed 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But somebody has to tell die-hard Android fans that Google’s Pixel 2 XL isn’t very good. And that's not just because it doesn't offer a single feature that other manufacturers haven't already done, and done better.

READ NEXT: Best smartphone 2017

That’s not necessarily a fatal flaw: you can do things competently and still sell. Unfortunately, there’s also one gigantic flaw that holds it back from any possible recommendation

Buy Google Pixel 2 XL from Carphone Warehouse

Google Pixel 2 XL review: What you need to know

The Pixel 2 XL is Google’s latest plus-sized flagship. The second-generation Pixel XL is a smartphone that’s meant to pave the way for the next wave of Android smartphones, with top-end specs and a camera that’s best in its class.

Releasing a month after the regular-sized Pixel 2, the 2 XL is a 6in smartphone with a P-OLED screen and a 20-megapixel rear camera that, according to DxOMark, is unbeatable. The latest Snapdragon 835 processor runs the show, complete with 4GB of RAM and a choice of either 64GB or 128GB of non-expandable storage.

Google Pixel 2 XL review: Price and competition

At £799 for the 64GB model and £899 for the 128GB variant, Google’s second Pixel-branded smartphone creeps alarmingly close to Apple’s three-figured iPhone X.

Not only that, but 2017 has already been a year filled with excellent flagships. The Pixel 2 XL is forced to fight with Samsung’s excellent Android-wielding Galaxy S8 Plus (£621) and Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus (£799). Huawei’s fresh-faced Mate 10 Pro has also entered the ring, at $799.

Google Pixel 2 XL review: Design

The Pixel 2 XL’s design is marvellous. We may have been treated to many bezel-less displays this year; from Samsung’s Galaxy S8 to LG’s V30, but Google’s latest plus-sized smartphone is a particularly special one.

You’ll find a similar two-tone mash-up of glass and sand-blasted aluminium as last year’s effort, complete with rounded corners and edges which wrap around the phone, bordering the front display. The fingerprint reader can still be spotted on the rear (just below the camera) and it’s easy to reach despite the 2 XL’s full-bodied frame.

Coming in at 7.9mm thin, and weighing 175g, it may be a little portly but those rounded corners make for a phone that fits comfortably in the hand. On the right-hand side, you’ll find the easy-to-reach power button and volume rocker, and the left houses the nano-SIM tray. On the bottom, you’ll spot the solitary USB-C port for charging.

Pixel fans will be disgruntled to discover that there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack – just like with the regular-sized Pixel 2 – despite Google’s mockery of Apple precisely 12 months ago. Both phones do come with a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box, and you can always use a pair of Bluetooth headphones instead, but most people would still class this as "annoying".

Google Pixel 2 XL review: Display

Despite its special looks, it’s the Pixel 2 XL’s display that sets it back. Remember that one, glaring flaw I teased earlier? Well, this is it.

At first pass, Its specifications are beguiling. The Pixel 2 XL’s P-OLED display measures 6in across the diagonal, with a resolution of 1,400 x 2,880, with both videos and Android games looking superb, with oodles of contrast. That is, however, provided you’re looking at the screen dead on.

Simply load up a web-page, or start viewing Netflix, and tilt the phone just a little bit to the left or right, up or down, and the screen takes on a distractingly hideous blue-ish tint. It’s a problem that, for someone that likes to read a lot on my phone on the go, rendered the Pixel 2 XL completely unusable.

And then there’s the bothersome flickering with the phone’s auto-brightness mode. Clearly, the Pixel 2 XL struggles to jump from one brightness to the other.

For £799 you’d expect the best, and the display issues with the Pixel 2 XL are simply inexcusable.

Buy Google Pixel 2 XL from Carphone Warehouse

Google Pixel 2 XL review: Performance and battery life

Internally, the Pixel 2 XL is powered by Qualcomm’s latest octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor: the same chipset found in Samsung's Galaxy S8 Plus and the cheaper OnePlus 5. Elsewhere, you’ll find 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of non-expandable storage.

And the Pixel 2 XL’s performance is a match for every other manufacturer on the market, with only Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus edging out in front. Here’s how the Pixel 2 XL performed in Geekbench 4’s rigorous multi- and single-core processing tests:

Likewise, the Pixel 2 XL’s graphics performance is a similar story. As the below chart proves, it’s just as fast as its rivals but is again pipped at the post by Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus.

In terms of battery life, we’ve seen some excellent results from Snapdragon 835-equipped smartphones in 2017, with the superb OnePlus 5 leading the charge with its 21-hour lifespan. In our own continuous video playback test, the Pixel 2 XL’s 3,520mAh battery managed to squeeze out 15hrs and 9mins before running out of juice, lagging behind the OnePlus 5 by a good five hours.

It’s also a shame that, unlike the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8, the Pixel 2 XL doesn’t come equipped with wireless charging. Having said that, the Pixel 2 XL does benefit from fast charging, taking roughly 1hr and 27mins to reach full capacity from flat.

Google Pixel 2 XL review: Camera

Finally, on to the Pixel 2 XL’s excellent rear camera. The folks at DxOMark awarded it a score of 98 – higher than any other smartphone camera on the market – and I've been itching to put it through its paces ever since the grand unveiling.

The Pixel 2 XL’s 12.2-megapixel sensor, equipped with a bright f/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilisation and phase-detect and laser autofocus produced images with loads of detail. And, with Google refining the performance of its excellent HDR+ processing algorithms, those images are much speedier to capture.

Put the Pixel 2 XL up against last year’s effort, and photographs captured by Google’s latest have better colour reproduction in outdoor conditions and a more neutral cast in low light. If you recall, last year’s Pixel struggled with white balance compensation, producing images with a warm, yellowish tint, but there’s no such evidence of that here.

Buy Google Pixel 2 XL from Carphone Warehouse

With the two images side-by-side, the differences aren’t quite so in your face, but pictures did look slightly more natural, with a touch more accurate colour saturation. There’s also a handful of new shooting features too, including “motion photo”, which captures a brief section of video to go with your still shots, and a portrait mode, which replicated the blurred “bokeh” background effect you get when shooting with a DSLR.

The Pixel 2 is also capable of shooting 4K video at 30fps. Although, quality isn’t as good as still shots - with footage looking too dark and oversaturated. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 definitely has the upper hand when it comes to video, even if the Pixel 2 XL does try to compensate with 120fps and 240fps recording.

Google Pixel 2 XL review: Verdict

It’s very disappointing that in the end, the Pixel 2 XL’s display issues drag the phone back from greatness. Because of this, and unlike its regular-sized alternative, the 2 XL won’t be rocketing to the top spot of our smartphones hierarchy anytime soon.

Sure, it has the latest, and greatest processor on-board, and includes the best smartphone camera to date, but its lofty price and poor video capture quality means Google’s plus-sized Pixel 2 XL is certainly not a phone I can recommend. At least, not in its current state.

Posted on 17 October 2017 | 6:48 am


Best balance bike 2017: Get your tot on two wheels with our pick of the best balance bikes

Joseph Delves

1 day 7 hours ago

A balance bike is a great way to introduce your child to cycling. Forget stabilisers, learning to ride on a balance bike is both safer and more fun, and makes for a seamless transition to pedaling unaided.

The appeal of balance bikes is that they do away with cumbersome pedals and cranks, allowing children as young as two to hop aboard. Kids can start by scooting along with both feet safely on the floor, and then quickly learn to balance and steer. Then, when the time comes to move up to a bike with pedals, they’ve already mastered the hard part. Riding a balance bike also provides all the regular benefits of early cycling, such as improved health and confidence – and there’s less need for you to push or carry your little one around.

How to buy the best balance bike for your child

As with adult bikes, there’s a large number of balance bikes to choose from, chiefly distinguished by size, components and features.

How much should I spend?

The cheapest balance bikes are really just ride-on toys. Spend more and you’ll find the moving parts rolling on proper bearings rather than cheap bushings. These will ride better, with a feel that’s closer to a grown-up bicycle, and last long enough to pass down from one sibling to the next. It’s worth spending at least £60 on the smallest models and £80 or more for larger ones.

In short, don’t neglect the importance of design, geometry and construction. Your child will appreciate a bike that looks good, fits their body and rides smoothly.

What size bike should I buy?

The ideal size depends on the age of your child. Small frames with 10in wheels are suitable for the very youngest children, starting at around 18 months; the more popular 12in and 14in sizes cover kids between two and six years of age.

Does it matter what the frame and wheels are made from?

The frame material mostly impacts overall weight: steel is heaviest while aluminium tends to be lighter but is more costly. Tyre material meanwhile affects performance and maintenance. The cheapest balance bikes use hard plastic tyres, which are light but bumpy and prone to skidding. Solid EVA foam tyres give a smoother ride. Pneumatic (air-filled) tyres, as found on adult bikes, are the best for grip and comfort, but they’ll need occasional pumping and are prone to punctures.

Should I buy a balance bike with a brake?

While the normal way to stop a balance bike is simply to put one’s feet down on the ground, some models also come with a hand-operated brake. The main purpose of this is to prepare children for their first pedal bike. If you choose a bike with a brake, check that the lever is the right size for your child’s hands; the same applies to the saddle and handlebar grips.

The best balance bikes to buy

1. Puky LR M: The best value balance bike

Price: £64

The smallest of German brand Puky’s balance bikes, the LR M is as cute as a button, with a cool retro-styled paint job. It’s also fantastically durable and practical, with dinky foam wheels that will suit smaller riders and require no maintenance.

Despite its steel frame, the LRM weighs an easily portable 3.5kg, and Puky will even sell you a dedicated carry strap.The neatly integrated deck makes stepping on a doddle, and serves as a handy footrest once you’re gliding along. The supportive scooped back saddle is ideally shaped for coasting too. And the skinny diameter grips have integrated bumpers at the end, so they’ll protect little hands in the event of a crash – and save your paintwork at home.

Key specs – Wheel size: <10in; Suggested age: 2 years+; Frame material: Steel; Tyre type: Foam; Weight: 3.5kg; Additional features: Handlebar pad

2. Islabikes Rothan: Best-quality balance bike

Price: £170 – Buy now from Islabikes

Isla Bikes has a reputation as the leading premium kids’ bike manufacturer, and the Rothan is arguably the best balance bike around: the price is high, but the parts list wouldn’t look out of place on a quality adult bike. Sealed bearing hubs and lightweight wheels are paired to slim pneumatic tyres for easy rolling. The saddle and grips are ergonomic, while the micro-reach brake lever was created specifically to match little hands.

There’s also an integrated steering limiter, which prevents the handlebars from spinning round to protect the rider if they have a tumble, and smooth wheel fixing nuts to prevent scrapes. The Isla’s geometry is also the product of extensive research and experimentation. Available in four bright two-tone colour schemes, the Rothan is a seriously grown up balance bike.

Key specs – Wheel size: 12in; Suggested age: 2 years+; Frame material: Aluminium; Tyre type: Pneumatic; Weight: 3.2kg; Additional features: Brake, Sealed bearings

3. Early Rider Alley Runner: Most stylish balance bike

Price: £150 – Buy now from Wiggle

Aimed at riders between two and five years old, the Alley Runner’s slick 12in wheels are suited to use on tarmac or mild off-road terrain. Secured with safety-conscious fixing bolts and spinning on sealed hubs, the wheels ensure an easy ride – helped along by a very low overall weight. At the front of the bike, a clever steering limiter centres the front wheel to keep newbie riders on track. Once they’re up to speed, you can unhook the rubber O-ring to free up the steering. The bike uses quality parts and technology that will be familiar to adult riders, and with a range of accessories it’s even possible to fit a road-bike-style drop bar.

Key specs – Wheel size: 12in; Suggested age: 2-5 years; Frame material: Aluminium; Tyre type: Pneumatic; Weight: 3.25kg; Additional features: Adjustable steering limiter

4. Wiggins Pau: Best mid-range balance bike

Price: £100 – Buy now from Halfords

The Wiggins Pau packs in a star name and a stellar parts list. That starts with a lightweight aluminium frame, whose unique many-tubed design will appeal to style conscious youngsters. There’s also a brake, helping build towards riding a conventional pedal bike – and while many brands banish this to the underside of the bike, the Wiggins uses a special narrow caliper that’s unlikely to get in the way. Big chunky pneumatic tyres are equally at home on tarmac or over rough terrain, and a handle grip under the saddle makes it easy to carry the Pau home at the end of the day. The neat build is rounded off with a steering limiter to stop the bars spinning by accident and svelte, smooth-edged fixings for extra safety.

Key specs – Wheel size: 12in; Suggested age: 2-4 years; Frame material: Aluminium; Tyre type: Pneumatic; Weight: 3.8kg; Additional features: Rear brake

5. Strider Sport: Most versatile balance bike

Price: £88 

Despite its steel frame, the Strider Sport has a low weight of 2.9kg, thanks to clever one-piece composite wheels and EVA foam tyres. While these don’t provide the cushioned ride of pneumatic alternatives, they’re tough and require zero maintenance – and if you wish, you can upgrade them later, as the rims will also accept conventional tyres and tubes.

Even out of the box, the Sport is exceptionally configurable. It comes with two seatposts of different lengths, designed to accommodate inside leg lengths between 27cm and 48cm, to suit growing children. Both saddle and handlebar height are easily adjustable too, via a tool-free quick release system. There’s even a retrofittable foot brake available as an upgrade. An uncommonly small diameter handlebar allows for correspondingly narrow grips that are suited to little mitts, and the saddle is similarly designed to provide comfort and control for small hips.

Key specs – Wheel size: 12in; Suggested age: 1.5-5 years; Frame material: Steel; Tyre type: Foam; Weight: 2.9kg; Additional features: Handlebar pad

Posted on 16 October 2017 | 9:01 am


Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro review: Hands-on with Huawei’s Note 8 challenger

Jonathan Bray Nathan Spendelow

1 day 5 hours ago

Samsung pulling the plus-sized Note 7 from shelves last year left a massive hole for would-be phablet owners. It was a chasm that Huawei’s Mate 9 desperately tried to fill, but did so with middling results. This year, it's the turn of the Huawei Mate 10, but circumstances have changed.

READ NEXT: The best smartphones of 2017 (so far)

With the Samsung Galaxy Note back, and steadfastly refusing to blow up in people's faces, the competition is far stronger this year; but there's also a raft of new big-screened competitors to contend with, including the 6in Google Pixel XL.

So the Mate 10 has a job on its hands; just as well Huawei has given the phone a total re-jig when it comes to both exterior design and internal specs. From first impressions, this is a handset that has every chance of success against the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

Huawei Mate 10 review: What you need to know

The Huawei Mate 10 is the firm’s latest plus-sized smartphone. Created in an effort to shove the Note 8 off the top spot, it employs Huawei’s latest flagship processor – the Kirin 970 – and includes 6GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage that's expandable via a microSD card.

There’s a 5.9in 1,440 x 2,560 RGBW IPS display on the front, complete with a pair of Leica-branded f/1.6 dual cameras on the back. One is a standard 12-megapixel RGB lens, while the other incorporates a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor.

Huawei Mate 10 vs Huawei Mate 10 Pro: What's the difference?

There's also a Pro version of the Mate 10 this year and this looks the more attractive of the two phones.

It has a slightly larger 6in OLED display and this has a long-tall 18:9 aspect ratio, just like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Oddly, though, the resolution is lower than the regular Mate 10's: it's 1,080 x 2,160.

The key difference is that the Pro is rated as being both dust- and water-resistant to IP67 where the Mate 10 is not. In all other respects, other than the higher price, it's the same as the regular Mate 10.

The Porsche Design version is also making a comeback but that version is ludicrously expensive, costing more even than an iPhone X at €1,395

Huawei Mate 10 review: Price and competition

The regular Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, however, are priced at a refreshingly low level. While most big-screened flagships have been coming in at £700 or more, the Mate 10 will cost €699, while the Pro will set you back €799. Given the small differences between the two handsets, that makes the Mate 10, if not the Mate 10 Pro, something of a big-screened bargain.

Huawei Mate 10 review: Design, specifications and first impressions

From the front, the Mate 10 is particularly special. Available in either “mocha brown”, “champagne gold”, “pink gold”, or bog-standard black, its entire front is dominated by an arresting 5.9in display, with very little bezel on show, bar a sliver at both the top and bottom. It really is a sight to behold.

Flip it over, and more changes are afoot. There’s the usual dual camera arrangement with both cameras sitting just above the rear fingerprint reader, but the all-aluminium matte unibody rear of last year’s Mate 9 is gone and, in its place, sits what Huawei calls its “multi-axis curved glass back”.

In plain English, this is an aluminium rear with a sheet of superheated, scratch-resistant “6H”-rated glass on the top, which wraps attractively around the sides of the phone's body. If last year's Mate 9 was a bit of a looker, this year's is a supermodel.

Both the power and volume rocker keys sit on the right-edge of the phone, while the dual microSD (expandable up to 256GB) and nano-SIM tray is on the top. On the bottom, you’ll find a solitary speaker grille and USB-C port for charging. Alas, in a depressing development that looks to be spreading throughout the industry, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack on the Pro model, though thankfully the regular model keeps it for another year.

Likewise, what’s most alarming is the lack of waterproofing. Despite the fact that the Pro model does benefit from IP67 dust- and water-resistance, the regular Mate 10 receives no such luxury, making do with a “water-resistant” coating instead.

As for the display, the Mate 10 has a 5.9in 2K (1,440 x 2,560) resolution RGBW screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio. It’s bright – 30% brighter than last year’s in fact – with a claimed peak brightness of 730cd/m².

On the inside, the Mate 10 is the first device to be powered by Huawei’s own octa-core 2.36GHz Kirin 970 chip, backed up by 6GB of RAM and a choice of either 64GB or 128GB of storage, expandable up to 256GB with a microSD card. The chip itself is also the first, says Huawei, to have an integrated hardware AI element – the neural processing unit – designed to speed up tasks such as intelligent photo analysis and language translation.

The phone also runs the latest version of Android Oreo, although you won't see much of it as it's slathered with a thick layer of custom manufacturer launcher software, in this case, Huawei's Emotion UI 8 (EMUI).

EMUI certainly divides opinion, but one thing you can't deny is that it packs in the features. Thanks to the phone's new neural processing unit, the camera has more advanced scene recognition than ever before, and there’s a new DeX-like feature that will let you run a desktop-like environment when you connect the phone to a monitor. Unlike Samsung’s version of the system, though, the Huawei Mate 10 requires only the correct cable to work and doesn’t need a pricey docking station.

I’m yet to put the Mate 10 through our usual suite of rigorous benchmarks, but if Huawei's claims are anything to go by, this will deliver 20% performance uplift over the Kirin 960 in last year’s Mate 9.

Hopefully, the new chip will be a touch more efficient, too, because battery life wasn’t the Mate 9’s strongest suit.

The claims are on point, with Huawei promising two-days of stamina in regular use and up to 20 hours of continuous video playback, but we'll have to run the phone through our tests before we can confirm any of that.

As for the camera, the Mate 10 is equipped with a pair of wide f/1.6 aperture rear-facing cameras, complete with optical image stabilisation (OIS).

The main 12-megapixel camera utilises an RGB sensor, while the secondary camera uses a 20-megapixel, monochrome-only sensor, which helps to capture finer details.

The end result is a camera that’s a solid performer from what we've seen so far, producing detail-rich images even in the darkest of shooting conditions.

Huawei Mate 10 review: Early verdict

Huawei seems to have done just enough to earn a spot in your pocket this year. While the Mate 9 was disappointing and didn’t last long on a single charge, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro looks to be an improvement on the shortcomings of its predecessor. The Note 8 will be difficult to unseat from its position at the top of the Android phablet table, however.

Still, I’m impressed with what Huawei has shown us so far, and the price – of the regular Mate 10 at least – is pretty reasonable for a large-screened smartphone in today's over-inflated market. I'll be updating this review in the next few days with my final thoughts, but for now it's looking good for the Mate 10.

Posted on 13 October 2017 | 8:21 am


Synology DS216j review: A capable two-bay NAS device for under £150

Darien Graham-Smith

4 days 8 hours ago
Price when reviewed 

Even if you've long since moved your files into cloud services such as Google Drive and Dropbox, there's still a lot to be said for network attached storage. Plug the likes of Synology's DS216j into your Wi-Fi router, and you can use it to store local backups of a whole household full of devices, while retaining access to those files from whichever PC, laptop or smartphone is closest to hand.

And if you're a home worker or small business owner who simply can't afford to lose access to your files in the event of an internet outage, then a NAS device is an almost essential investment.

Synology DS216j review: Design and features

The Synology DS216j is a very cheap two-bay NAS appliance which – it must be said – scores low on glamour. The enclosure isn’t exactly ugly, but the shiny white plastic is a little tacky, and there’s no easy access to the drive bays: to install or replace disks, you’ll have to dig out a screwdriver and slide the side off.

Functionally, though, this dinky drive ticks a lot of boxes. Despite its diminutive size, it runs the full version of Synology’s latest DSM 6.1 operating system, which means you get all the same features as Synology's much chunkier – and much pricier – models. That starts with a rich, window-based web interface, and an extensive set of companion apps for Android and iOS. There’s integration with every major cloud storage service plus easy remote access, either through Synology’s QuickConnect website or via dynamic DNS.

DSM also offers a comprehensive suite of network services. For home users, the DS216j works with iTunes and Time Machine, and includes Synology’s Photo Station image server, too. At work, it can integrate with Active Directory, and Synology’s free Surveillance Station app can control and capture video from two IP cameras. (Additional cameras can be added for a modest fee.)

There’s also an impressive range of techie add-ons available. You can host an email server, a web server, a wiki and a WordPress blog on the DS216j, as well as developer tools such as Drupal, Joomla and Ruby.

Synology DS216j review: Performance

If all this sounds too good to be true, there are a few caveats. At the heart of the DS216j sits a modest 1GHz dual-core 32-bit Marvell processor. This is fine for basic networking demands: the DS216j easily kept up with much more expensive rivals for everyday file-copy operations. Even so, it’s far from a powerful CPU – most modern smartphones have more grunt.

RAM is another potential issue: the DS216j’s 512MB of DDR3 is quite low and it can’t be upgraded. So while the various apps and tools mentioned above are all available to you, the DS216j will start to struggle if you try to use them all at once. If you were hoping to run virtual machines on your NAS drive, this certainly isn’t the one to go for.

The DS216j’s lightweight internals also make it an iffy choice for a video server. Plex will install, but streaming requires a smart client that can decode H.264 and H.265 video locally; if you try to stream these formats to a dumb receiver that expects the server to do the work (such as the Plex Web Player), you’ll just see a notification that the DS216j isn’t powerful enough. Happily, there is another option: Synology’s Video Station app is optimised for the hardware, and was happily able to serve up 1080p H.265 video, over either DLNA or through a Synology client app. Still, we’d have preferred to use the more popular, cross-platform Plex server.

Another minor limitation is that the DS216j has only a single Gigabit Ethernet port; the usefulness of a second port is questionable in a home setting, but you’ll need it if you ever want to use load balancing or failover for more business-focused applications.

Finally, there’s also no convenient one-click USB copy button at the front – nor, indeed, a front-facing USB connector. If you frequently need to slurp up the contents of an external drive then this may be an annoyance, but if you just have a few disks to copy then it’s no great hardship to plug them into one of the two rear-facing ports and drag and drop the relevant files by hand.

Synology DS216j review: Verdict

Clearly, the DS216j isn’t what you’d call a do-it-all appliance. If you want a fully-featured Plex server that won’t break the bank, check out the Qnap TS-251A instead. However, for a small office that’s focused on file-sharing basics, there’s no need to pay for an all-singing, all-dancing NAS unit. The Synology DS216j does everything you need at an excellent price.

Posted on 13 October 2017 | 8:07 am