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Sunday , January 6 , 2013
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Pop those phablets


The Samsung Galaxy Note sold by the boatloads, but it was responsible for one more thing — making it almost borderline cool, to be seen in public carrying a ‘phablet’, a phone-tablet crossbreed. Do the latest phablets from Lenovo and LG, the K860 and the Optimus Vu, challenge the Note II on its home turf? Let’s find out.

LG Optimus Vu: There is large, and then there is Vu-large. This device is humongous, and it feels even more so courtesy its squarer form factor. Those with small hands, beware — this is a phone you need to try and handle first before buying.

Having said that, the bigger, broader screen is fantastic for web surfing and reading documents/ emails, and two-handed typing on the touch keyboard is comfortable. The issue is that the square 4:3 aspect ratio will cause all widescreen videos and apps to be displayed with ugly black bands on either side. LG bundles a neat accessory — a Rubberdium stylus — but the sheer lack of variety of stylus-friendly apps plus no provision to stow the pen along with the phone means it’s just a wasted opportunity.

Performance-wise, the Vu is acceptable on most parameters, in that it handles full HD videos and games with ease. But it’s not class leading, and certainly not Note II beating, by any measure. While you get a roomy 32GB on board plus a decent camera, battery life is middling.

Compared to the Note II: Not a bad package per se, but at its price it compares rather poorly to the competition.

Lenovo K860: Part of the laptop major’s first line-up of smartphones, the K860 phablet is less imposing to hold and use in one hand than the Vu or the Note II. The form factor is pretty compact for a 5-in device, thanks in large part to the slimmer bezel on the sides of the screen. It is a tad heavy, though.

For the money, you’d think Lenovo would have economised on the internals — surprisingly, you get the same processor that powers the Note II, a decent 1GB of memory and 8GB of internal storage with a micro SD card slot for expansion. The 5-in display is sharp and great for reading. All of this translates to a good experience on the slightly dated Ice Cream Sandwich platform, though I can’t say I’m a big fan of the Lenovo overlay (skin). Any which way you look at it, it’s great bang for your buck.

Compared to the Note II: A good bet for the price savings you’ll make!

LG Optimus Vu

Rating: 7/10
Price: Rs 34,500

Lenovo K860

Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 28,499

Flights of fancy

There are geek toys, and then there’s the kind of product that defines the category. The A.R. Drone 2.0 is one such product. It’s a lightweight remote controlled quad-copter (four rotors), and it packs in an HD-capable camera in the front for recording videos and photos, not to forget one camera in the base as well. It can be controlled up to 160ft away and 20ft high via an app on your phone/ tablet, and can do a variety of aerial manoeuvres, including a legendary mid-flight flip! But most crucially, this baby works as advertised…and how!

All you have to do is download the FreeFlight app onto your phone and connect it to the wireless network that’s running off the phone. Watch the tutorial videos online before you begin though. They help immensely in figuring out the various in-flight capabilities of the A.R. Drone 2.0 and how to record videos/ photos on your phone or on a USB drive directly connected to the A.R. Drone 2.0.

What’s great about this baby is that once you’ve learned the ropes, it’s incredibly easy to operate and lots of fun! Easy to fly also means it’s harder to crash, and if you your drone gets out of range, it doesn’t fall to the ground instead it hovers on the spot until you walk back within range. While it does have a separate hull for indoor use, this baby really comes into its own outdoors.

Pity this much fun doesn’t come for cheap. At nearly Rs 32,000, the drone is square in the category of an expensive toy for young adults, and not something most parents will easily hand over to their kids. Another drawback is that the battery only lasts for about 15 minutes of sustained use at this price, I’d have expected a spare in the pack.

Rating: 7/10
Price: Rs 31,990 via Flipper Tech India