So 48 hours later using the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8, here is my initial review. But it is also 48 hours without my iPhone 7 Plus/Apple Watch combo. I have been incredibly used to using iOS as my main phone for over a year despite reviewing many android phones.
Having used iOS and other Apple hardware has benefits. Everything talks to everything. It’s a doddle to share content between devices and other people using iOS or Apple hardware. Everything just works and I have got very used to all the methodology and ways. I have had to tell my wife not to send photos over iMessage, instead email them. My wife can’t FaceTime me. Same for the rest of my family who all use iPhones. AirDrop is absent too. But weirdly, the biggest thing I miss is wearing my Apple Watch. I’m not sure it’s missing it as such, but my wrist feels empty without it. It is such a strange sensation. My wife at the start of my journey was not too pleased with me moving platforms either.
Anyway, so back to the Note 8. The first 24 hours felt alien. As much as I am bowled over by the hardware, the software just felt a mess. Setting up Bixby was a disaster. It kept saying it could not hear my voice. WTF. A deaf voice assistant! I also had a mess of 136 apps and or games installed and everything was out of order and all over the place. On my iPhone, apps were in a particular folder and position within the folder for ease of use.
However, I am not one to give up and realised it would take a while to adjust and hopefully I would start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For the time being, I won’t be installing Nova Launcher. I want to feel and appreciate everything Samsung has done with this phone for at least a month. Tomorrow, I have a new super fast Samsung memory card arriving, a Gear Fit 2 Pro and already have a Gear 360 (2017). This way I can appreciate the Samsung eco system more. I won’t be turning off Bixby either. Siri works extremely well for me on my iPhone due to the simple reason I taught it over time. I shall do the same with Bixby and get it to deliver eventually. I hope!
The single biggest problem with the Note 8 has been signal. If I had got my Note 8 direct from Three UK, it would have the wifi calling integrated into the firmware. My Note 8 has come unlocked direct from Samsung. Between Three and Samsung, they have not provided the wifi calling/VOLTE within the firmware. For a flagship phone this is not acceptable. My iPhone 7 Plus had this integrated and was from Apple direct. Three have an app for WiFi calling. Firstly the software looks like a dogs dinner. Secondly it drains the battery. And thirdly, you have messages and calls coming into its app, and not the default Samsung apps. So it gets 1/10 from me and that’s being generous. Fortunately, I have a Three Signal Booster which I had to power up and this has resolved my signal at home.
Setting up Bixby was resolved by opening Bixby, finding the settings and running through the setup. I still can’t turn the phone on from a lock screen, using my “Hi Bixby”. No idea why that’s not working. Also, the Smart Switch software provided by Samsung to transfer SMS and other stuff from my iPhone to the Note 8 keeps crashing. It just doesn’t work! Bummer. I really would like my text messages transferred across, if nothing else.
Unlocking. Joke, serious joke. WTF did Samsung think by adding the fingerprint sensor so high up. Firstly, it is impossible to reach. Second, when you do reach it, it never works because your finger angle is always out of alignment slightly. So fortunately, I am using Android Smart Unlock options along with face unlock for now. Face Unlock doesn’t work in darkness or bright sun, so its back to a pin code.
Before this sounds like a bash bash of Samsung, let’s move on to the good stuff. The phone looks amazing. My Spigen case arrived on Saturday which made usability a damn sight better. It is a great case for under £9. Link at end if you are interested. As I have had many Samsung phones before, logging into my Samsung account brought back lots of information, from web bookmarks, my Samsung Health data and much more. S Health on the Note 8 is amazing. More on this on my main review.
Themes. Again logged into my Samsung account, and have downloaded all 20 of my themes, checked them all out, and removed the ones that don’t look good on the Note 8. I now have all my folders and home page looking tidy. My weather station, Hue lights and other connected devices are all working well and Google Assistant is super fast at controlling stuff. Quicker than Siri. I have now logged into all my social media accounts, media and web services so the phone is now usable.
Gaming. Samsung Game Launcher is excellent. More on this in my full review.
The screen is wonderful to view anything. It’s big and bright and so visible in sunlight. And the dual OIS rear camera lenses produce amazing results. And so to the camera. Below are just a few random quick shots in auto. These shots are so good, my wife now is happy for me to be on android instead of iOS !!
The Note 8 has a super fast focus system, and now using the zoom lens is offers more flexibility due to having OIS.
When Google announced the new Pixel Phone, it claimed it had the best camera on any phone and had the highest mark ever awarded by DxOmark of 89. So to wet your appetite, below are a selection of photos from the Pixel Phone, courtesy of Google.
If you want to check out even more shots from the Pixel, hit the link below.
My Honor 8 smartphone arrived yesterday in sapphire blue. After I have spent some more time testing it, I will publish my review, but I will just say this for now, it is an incredible stunning piece of hardware. In the flesh it just screams premium and quality and makes me wonder why anyone would buy anything else based on looks alone. The Honor 8 packs a ton of decent hardware specs and many neat software extras, all of which I will cover off in more depth in my main review.
In the meantime, these are the first photos from the camera.
The above shot is taken in wide aperture mode. With wide aperture mode, you can set the focus point and change the f stop. This adjusts the bokeh. Once you have snapped the photo, you can re edit the focus point and f stop.
If you want your food to pop, then use Good Food mode.
Auto mode and using an inbuilt filter. It really was that foggy!
The Honor 8 has lots of different camera modes, making it a competent shooter. This is one of the light painting modes, called Silky Water. This makes light work of creating silky water.
Road to Bellever Tor, shot in auto. I love the colour accuracy of this shot.
Shot directly in to the sun. In auto and a great result.
Another auto shot. Again I am really pleased with the result.
So what do you think of these photos?
More info and the latest pricing on Amazon – Click HERE.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 features the same hardware as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge so this should mean there is no change in the camera quality.
But like everything in life, surprises occur unexpectedly. From my early shots it seems Samsung has been tweaking the software as a minimum as the end results appear marginally better than those taken on my Samsung Galaxy S7.
Anyway a selection of photos from my Note 7, all unedited too. Don’t forget, click on each shot to view the full size. You may have to select original file size from the options as well.
Zooming in shows the level of detail picked up by the Note 7 on the church.
When one of your dogs photobombs a close up shot of stones 🙂 Tiggy’s snout gets the limelight but what a shot again. The stones were smaller than shown as well.
Nuns Cross on Dartmoor. Rather overcast at the time but great detail, colours and contrast.
View of South Hessary Tor, Dartmoor and my 3 labradors.
Lovely landscape shot. All in auto mode.
Egg on toast. Another good photo from the Note 7 but not to be unexpected either.
It has been 24 hours since the Xiaomi Mi Max arrived. It is an absolute beast. Currently, I am running the Chinese rom as the official global rom is not available. This meant side loading Google Play Services which was a fairly simple affair once I used the correct apk installer. I have now installed around 100 apps/games from the Google Play Store.
One of the drawbacks of using the Chinese rom is despite selecting English in the language settings, Chinese text does appear in certain apps and menus. This hasn’t stop me setting up the FM Radio channels, the Mi Remote (infra red blaster) for my TV and a lot more. The loudspeaker is mono, goes fairly loud and sounds quite good. Headphone audio is excellent. My Sennheiser HD598se were powered with relative ease.
Battery life is wonderful. Full brightness. Everything on. And still loads of juice left at the end of the day. Every phone should have a 4,850mAh battery! Viewing media on the 6.44 inch screen is fantastic too.
So what about the camera? Well below are some samples I snapped yesterday. Click on each photo if you want to pixel peep at the original.
Whilst perfect conditions for taking photos. I felt the shots were good. Just look how vivid the colours are on the telephone box, yet the sky is the correct shade of blue.
Shot of my village centre.
Now this is my local church. HDR was off.
But with HDR on, the shot is vastly improved.
The Mi Max has tap to focus. So I tried focusing on the graveyard in the distance and it worked.
So now I focused on one of the bars. And it worked again. So far I have been impressed by the camera.
Yesterday I received the official Samsung Protective Lens Cover for my S7. Samsung also sell this for the S7 Edge.
Below are some camera samples and comparisons with the LG G5. To view full size click on each photo.
Samsung S7 – No lenses used. Snapped at 4:3. Cropped to 16:9.
LG G5 – 16mp
Samsung S7 -Wide Lens attached
LG G5 – 8mp Wide Angle Lens
Samsung S7 – Wide
LG G5 – Wide lens
Samsung S7 – Telephoto Lens
I have since discovered that apparently the wide angle lens can also be used for macro shots. This I need to test still. The Telephoto lens can suffer light flare easily, but this can be removed by blocking the light hitting the lens awkwardly.
All the S7 shots were originally 4:3. I just cropped then to 16:9. I really liked the dog burst shots taken with the telephoto lens. The wide shots were as expected. Quality seemed similar to the LG G5, although in places the edge does go to the S7 with the lenses attached. However, if you have the LG G5, you don’t need to attach anything.
The actual case for the S7 is a very strong and sturdy affair and even has a raised grip section on the right back end. Neat touch.
So what do you think? If you head over to my flickr I have created a dedicated album. The dog shots were all taken with the telephoto lens. CLICK HERE.
So I have the Huawei P9 in the house and have started to test the camera. What I have seen so far is impressive whilst snapping photos.
The colour accuracy is excellent and the monochrome lens take some cracking photos. I will push the boundaries of this dual lens Leica branded setup and have some more posts. The church shot came out really well. This was plain auto mode.
Inside Domino’s Pizza and they have stools to sit while you wait for your food. This is taken using the monochrome lens.
Above is the pizza menu to illustrate the colours snapped by the Huawei P9.
Welcome to my review of the Asus Zenfone Zoom. Before I published my review I posted a number of miscellaneous articles that you may wish to view which are connected to the main review. As usual if you have any questions, please ask. With all the photos, clicking on the image will reveal the original.
This review will also be added into the main phone reviews section. Just use the menu, index, reviews. In this review section you can find reviews for over 100 devices.
This phone is special. It has a 3 x optical zoom lens which operates without any moving external parts. The whole mechanism is internal. It also has laser auto focus as well as phase detection. As a smartphone it comes with all the bells and whistles too. See video below for more information on the camera.
So what’s inside the box? The photos below show the contents of the box. I like the fact it comes with a lanyard that attaches securely to the phone. You also get a pair of headphones, quick start guide, UK adapter and micro USB cable.
The key specifications are –
The other specifications based on model ZX551ML –
– Display – 5.5-inch 1080p Full HD, 403ppi, IPS LCD
– Corning Gorilla Glass 4
– Processor – 64-bit 2.5GHz Quad-core Intel Atom Z3590 CPU
– Graphics – PowerVR G6430 GPU
– RAM – 4GB LPDDR3
– Internal Storage – 64GB eMCC Flash or 128GB eMCP Flash
– External Storage – microSD (up to 128GB)
– Cameras – Rear – 13MP Panasonic SmartFSI sensor with a 10-element Hoya 3x optical zoom lens, aperture ranges from f/2.7 to f/4.8
– 5MP front-facing camera
– Software – Android 5.1 with ASUS ZenUI
– Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/b/ac
– Bluetooth 4.0+ EDR
– Android – 5.0 at launch
– Network Bands – UMTS/WCDMA/FDD-LTE, Data Rate: HSPA+: UL 5.76 / DL 42 Mbps, DC-HSPA+: UL 5.76 / DL 42 Mbps, LTE Cat4:UL 50 / DL 150 Mbps, 2G :GSM : 850MHz/900MHz/1800MHz/1900MHz , 3G :WCDMA :850MHz(5)/850MHz(6)/900MHz(8)/1900MHz(2) /2100MHz(1), 4G :FDD-LTE: (TW/JP version)
– Navigation – GPS, GLONASS, AGPS & BDS
– Sensors – Accelerator/E-Compass/Gyroscope/Proximity/Ambient Light Sensor/Hall Sensor
– Battery – 3000mAh non-removable Li-Polymer – comes with a rapid charger
– Dimensions – 158.9 x 78.84 x 11.95mm
– Weight – 185g
– Build – aluminium body with a removable leather back cover for accessing the micro SD and Micro SIM slots
The Main Settings and Other Phone Options
Further down I have created a gallery of screen shots of a number of different settings options. Tap on one photo to open the gallery.
The first aspect of the phone I like is the double tap to turn on or off. Other useful aspects are the inclusion of NFC, One Handed Mode (double tap home key to turn on), Power Saving options, Easy Mode and also a kids mode. Are you brave enough to allow your kid to use the phone! Wi-Fi also includes support for Wi-Fi Direct. Bluetooth includes APT-X. Data usage is split between Mobile Data and WiFi as well as details of data usage per app. The display has options for adjusting the colour balance and also activating a blue filter for night time viewing. I have never used a blue filter at night until I got this phone, but it really helped reduce my eyestrain. ZenMotion is a range of motion gestures used as shortcuts for various actions. Double tapping the home key when one handed operation is active, reduces the size of the screen. You can move the screen around too. You can also write on the screen to launch different apps. What is neat is there are options to launch the front camera by scribbling a “S” and a “C” for the rear camera. A decent do not disturb option is available. The lock screen has the option for quick access apps and whether or not to allow the physical keys to turn the camera on. See the screen shots to show all the details. Theming is everywhere with loads of customisations galore for every aspect including resizing the icons on the fly. I see no need to install a third party launcher with the Asus Zenfone Zoom.
Phone, Cellular and Audio
As a phone, the Zenfone Zoom performs really well. Calls were clear and people had no problem hearing me. The phone also has a recording button, again another useful option. Viewing angles were reasonable. Cellular strength and wifi seemed good too. The Zenfone Zoom is single micro sim and then a card slot for micro SD cards up to 128gb. On the LTE front, band 20 is missing. However, I never had an issues with data speeds using the Zenfone Zoom. AnTuTu scored 59,160 which is fairly close to the LG V10.
Audio. The rear loudspeaker is ok, maxing out around 88db. It is on the back, but doesn’t get totally muffled as their is a ridge on the back. Bluetooth APT-X is present and when you connect using a pair of headphones with APT-X, the APT-X logo suddenly appears on the screen and floats away. USB Audio is also supported and works well. The Zenfone Zoom has its own AudioEQ app to help improve the sound quality. It is a little gimmicky but it does work and make a difference. Overall sound quality is average though, slightly better using bluetooth APT-X and good via USB Audio.
The Camera App Interface
Ok, so this is a camera centric phone. So what are the options.
Front Selfie Settings
The front camera has lots of options from a timer that can be made to go off from 1 – 5 secs. To control the length, you just slide the shutter icon into the screen centre. The more you slide, the longer the delay becomes. Beautification is all the rage and the options include cheeks thinning, eyes enhancement, skin softening, blush effect, face/smile tracking. I had a lot of fun with the front selfie camera and was pleased with the shots even in lower light. I lost at least 10 years off my age with the beautification options 🙂
Rear Camera Settings
The rear camera has a feast of options. Or you can just use the auto mode. The operation of the camera is aided by a 2 stage physical shutter button and a physical button for launching video recording. The video button is next to the 2 stage shutter button. The volume keys then act as zoom controls. By default the settings are left to use the 3x optical zoom only and in my tests it bests to avoid using the digital zoom that goes all the way to 12 x zoom. It is better to crop into the 3 x optical zoom shots as the quality will be superior.
When in Auto mode, if a better mode will produce a superior result, the mode icon appears bottom right. Tap on the icon to switch to this mode, or turn off. Typically this appears for HDR or Low Light mode. To give you an idea of the setting ranges in manual mode.
– White Balance – 2500K to 6500K
– EV – -2 to + 2 in intervals 0.3, 0.6 1.0 etc
– ISO 50 to 3200
– Shutter speed – 1/16000 (thats right, its super fast) to 32 seconds for long exposures
– Manual Focus – slider control
– Horizontal Level
– Histogram – on or off when taking photo
In Auto Mode you get the following options which alter if you are using another mode.
– White Balance – Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Fluorescent, Incandescent
– ISO 50 – 3200
– Photo Optimisations – Auto, Off, Manual – Manual gives fine tuning for saturation, contrast, sharpness, noise reduction, backlight, detail enhancement
– Camera Resolution – 13MP 4:3, 10M 16:9, 8MP 4:3, 6MP 16:9, 5MP 4:3, 4MP 16:9
– Anti Shake enhancement – Auto or Off
– Digital Zoom – on or off
– Image Quality – Fine, Standard
– Timestamp – On or off
– Shooting Mode – Touch Shutter, Self Timer, Burst (off, normal, turbo)
– Focus & Exposure – Smart AF, Infinity
– Metering Mode – Centre, Average
– Touch Auto Exposure – on or off
– Face Detection – On or Off
For Video you get the same options with regards to white balance controls and EV adjustments as stills!
– Video Quality – Full HD, HD and TV (640 x480)
– Video Stabilisation – on or off
– Video Preference – Performance or Quality
– Video Touch Auto Exposure – on or off
Generic settings include smart brightness, guidelines, info screen, review duration, shutter animation, shutter sound on or off, launch by physical buttons options, location, correct photo orientation on or off, anti flickr 50 or 60Hz, Power Saving Mode, Set Volume keys for shutter or zoom, save to internal or SD card and a tutorial.
So what do the different photo modes do?
– Auto – automatically determines the cameras best settings based on the environment
– Manual – You decide
– HDR – Expands the dynamic range
– Beautification -makes you look beautiful
– Super Resolution – Combines multiples shots to create incredible detailed photos
– Low Light – boosts up light sensitivity for a clear and bright low light shot without using the flash. Images are 3mp 16:9.
– Night – Allows a slower shutter speed to capture more light in dark scenes
– Depth of Field – Captures photos of close-up subjects with a soft background
– Effect – applies a range of filters
– Selfie – use the rear camera for a high res shot
– GIF Animation – converts a series of images into a moving image or GIF
– Panorama – Horizontal or Vertical
– Miniature – Creates a photo of life size object and turns it into a small scale model
– Time Rewind – Records images before and after the shutter and allows you to select the best ones
– Smart Remove – removes unwanted moving objects from the background
– All Smiles – Combines each persons best expression from multiple shots into a single perfect group photo
– Slow Motion – records fast moving objects with very high frame rate and plays back in slow speed
– Time Lapse – Time lapse recording.
Each of the above modes often have a few extra options too.
Photo Editing Options
After taking a photo, you can easily check the information of the photo, from the time and date, weather at the time, width, height, file size, device, flash, focal length, white balance, exposure time, storage location, and geo location displayed on a map with the coordinates.
Post processing allows for all the beautification options as mentioned previously, applying over 17 filters, adding frames, cropping, straightening, rotating, mirroring or drawing, or fine tuning the photo (auto, exposure, vignette, grads, contrast, shadows, highlights, vibrancy, sharpness, curves, hue, saturation, BW filter, negative, edges, posterise, blur, feather or relief).
Turbo Burst Mode – This uses a ratio of 16:9 and reduces quality to 3mp.
Normal Burst Mode – Full size photos
Auto Mode Shots. You can see below examples of non zoomed versus 3 x optical zoom. Having the optical zoom really makes such a big difference. I was also surprised how much more appealing the Zenfone shots were over the iPhone 6S Plus.
Shots edited in Snapseed using the HDR Scape filter.
Super Resolution Mode shots.
Camera Quality Opinion
This is the question you have all been asking me. Just how good is the camera and how does it rank amongst the best out there. Lets cut to the chase. It is no LG V10 or Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus killer. The phones on these cameras are better. But none of these phones have 3 x optical zoom and that is the Zenfone’s killer aspect. The Zenfone Zoom does not have 4K, outputs lower resolution panoramic photos than the competition and is not naturally good in low light due to its small pixel size and f/2.7 aperture. Using some of the manual, night or low light modes you can compensate and achieve some reasonable photos, but again they are not a patch on the V10, S6 Edge+. Even the iPhone 6S Plus takes better shots in low light, although the difference is not huge. The front selfie camera is fine. So if you are out and about visiting a tourist attraction, I would have the Zoom with me as the ability to zoom in that extra bit is very useful, especially over something like the iPhone 6S Plus. The Zenfone Zoom surprised me with its burst mode. It is not super fast but it did focus and capture a sharper shot than my iPhone 6S Plus. The Zoom also over saturates shot. This can be changed permanently by using your own shooting profile. Optical image stabilisation worked well in my testing. So how does this compare to the Nokia Lumia 1020, Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom and Samsung Galaxy K Zoom. Well all of those 3 phones are obsolete now! But from an image quality point of view only and ignoring the smartphone aspects, the 1020 is better, so is the S4 and K Zoom. But remember the Zenfone Zoom has no optical zoom mechanism protruding from the front. My final viewpoint on the Zenfone Zoom is personally I really loved using the camera. I got some smashing shots from it and loved using all the different camera shooting modes. Its somewhat adorable and I don’t know why 🙂
The Asus Zenfone Zoom costs around £350. It comes with some clever engineering in the camera department and as a smartphone is extremely versatile. The camera quality is average and then assisted by the 3 x optical zoom making this phone unique. The 2 stage shutter button is excellent too along with the camera app allowing for some creative photos. As a smartphone it includes everything practically. As an overall package it is recommended.