Wednesday, July 29, 2009

HTC Snap

Style & Handling Summary

The HTC Snap is reminiscent of the BlackBerry Bold, with a spacious QWERTY keyboard that has a rather fetching bronze tint.

User Friendliness Summary

The relatively small 2.4-inch screen hinders the internet experience, but navigating with the track ball posed few problems. Syncing with email accounts such as Outlook and Hotmail was also simple to do.

Feature Set Summary


If you’re not a fan of touch-screens then the QWERTY keypad will appeal, but the main attraction of the Snap is the ‘Inner Circle’ feature. Select your most important contacts and one press of the green button will bring up all their emails. Genius.

Performance Summary

HSDPA and Wi-Fi ensure speedy internet browsing but the camera performed poorly, with just two megapixels and no flash – this was always going to be the case.

Battery Power Summary

Battery life is good.

The Verdict

The Inner Circle feature is genuinely helpful, but as smartphones go, there are better-equipped models on the market..

HTC has been so caught up with the Google Android/touch-screen whirlwind that we’d almost forgotten about its longstanding relationship with Windows Mobile. The HTC Snap, which offers both the aforementioned operating system and a full QWERTY keyboard, doesn’t even look like an HTC device. In fact, it resembles something more akin to the BlackBerry Curve range, albeit slightly longer and thinner.

Look and feel

The HTC Snap’s slim appearance helps keeps its weight down to an impressive 120g, and we actually found the bronze tinted keypad rather endearing. The QWERTY keypad consists of four rows, with the letters on the left of the pad doubling up as numeric keys. Above the keypad is a trackball that is surrounded by the call and call end keys, two hard keys and the home and back buttons. The keys are in close proximity to each other, though there is enough to distinguish between them all.

The trackball is certainly a welcome addition, but we found it a little loose and the overall result wasn’t as fluid as the BlackBerry experience. This is a shame as, due to the lack of a touch-screen, it’s the main means of navigating around the phone.

Operating on Windows Mobile 6.1, the Snap is compatible with Outlook and can even be synced with other email accounts such as Hotmail. Outlook is the only account that has push-email though.

Inner circle

The Snap’s unique selling point is its ‘Inner Circle’, which aims to prioritise emails from your most important or frequent contacts. Pressing the green inner circle key on the bottom right of the keypad will pull up any emails from your chosen contacts. It’s a great touch from HTC, and a genuine time saver.

With on-board HSDPA and Wi-Fi, all your connectivity needs are catered for and the experience was a real breeze. However, we did find the screen a tad on the small side, as excessive scrolling through webpages is necessary.

On-board GPS

The size of the screen also demeans the navigational experience as once again you’ll be using the trackball to scroll around Google Maps. Sadly, it also took us an age to get a GPS satellite fix, though this did improve when we switched on the QuickGPS feature in the accessories menu. Google Maps does include a useful search facility however, that enables you to find the nearest coffee shop to your current location for example, simply by typing in the word ‘coffee’. You can then call that venue directly, which is useful if you want to book a table.

HTC has included a two-megapixel camera that lacks features, in what appears to be nothing more than a token gesture. There’s no flash for one thing, and though you can select from a variety of white balance modes, our photos always appeared far darker than the conditions in which we were taking them. There is a video recording functionality, though the same issues occur.

The verdict

The HTC Snap is a very competent smartphone with some innovative features, most notably the ‘Inner Circle’. However, the majority of today’s flagship handsets are affectively smartphones, even if they don’t market themselves as such, and these outgun the likes of the Snap. A noble effort by HTC, but we just wonder if phones of this ilk have seen their day.

Toshiba TG01

Style & Handling Summary

A good looking device with a minimalist design and an attractive WVGA touch-screen that dominates the front of the handset.

User Friendliness Summary

The TG01 is seriously lacking in terms of usability, with a clunky user interface, an unresponsive touch-screen and oversights in hardware finish.

Feature Set Summary

Toshiba’s device is lacking any kind of standout feature and setting up new applications is a long-winded process. It fails to compete with other hero handsets, most of which are far superior in terms of features.

Performance Summary

The TG01 is able to find and connect to Wi-Fi hotspots quickly, but the overall internet experience was glitch-ridden and the touch-screen’s lack of responsiveness was incredibly frustrating.

Battery Power Summary

On the plus side, battery life was above average.

The Verdict

A highly disappointing release from Toshiba, especially considering the hype surrounding its launch. It might look nice, but there’s not much else on offer.

Panasonic announces LUMIX DMC-FP8 digital camera

Panasonic continues with its barrage of digital camera releases by unveiling the latest model in its new FP-Series, where the LUMIX FP-8 aims to achieve a careful balance between design and function. With that in mind, you can be sure that you won’t be shortchanged should you decide to bring this puppy home as a present to yourself or a loved one, as you can now capture your favorite memories in full 12.1-megapixels glory, thanks to its high-quality 28mm wide-angle, 4.6x Leica DC lens with folding optics, all stashed away within a futuristic-looking stylish body.

Apart from the relatively unique design, the FP8 will also boast advanced functions such as high-speed Auto Focus (AF) and Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto (iA) suite of technologies. The fast AF, when coupled with a high-speed start-up of only 0.95 seconds, will enable anyone to capture even the most fleeting of shots courtesy of the FP8’s fast response time. In addition, Panasonic’s iA, a popular feature on LUMIX cameras, will now include POWER Optical Image Stabilization (O.I.S.) that boasts double the repression power compared to the previous image stabilization system, MEGA O.I.S. You also need not worry about blurry images due to hand-shake generated during the pressing of the shutter button, or when capturing images under low light conditions using a slow shutter speed thanks to the improved POWER O.I.S.

Some of the features of the DMC-FP8 include :-

* HD Movies with VIERA Link Networking - Records dynamic HD motion pictures in 1280 x 720p at a smooth 30 fps, in addition to WVGA (848 x 480) and normal VGA (640 x 480). With HD component output capability, the user can enjoy watching photos and video in stunning HD quality by simply connecting the camera to a television via an optional component cable (DMW-HDC2)
* Scene Modes - Twenty-seven scene modes are available with the FP8, including the High Dynamic mode which helps to capture a scene with moderate exposure, even though the scene may contain both bright and dark areas together
* PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0 - Included with the FP8, this software allows users to view, edit and archive captured photos and videos with greater ease. The new PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0 features dramatic speed-up of operation and also allows users to store and sort for photos by a specific, recognized face in the image

You will be able to pick up the LUMIX DMC-FP8 this September for $299.95, where color choices are limited to black, red and silver.