The Telegraph
| Sunday, November 9, 2014 |


Timing it right

The Moto 360 scores over other smart watches with its premium looks and distinctive features, says Tushar Kanwar

Let's face it, while smart watches have been evolving at a furious pace over the past year, most have opted for a toyish-square geeky gadget look that simply hasn't looked good enough for you to actually want to wear it. The Moto 360 is different, with its distinctive brushed metal circular frame and leather straps — it looks premium, although with its 46mm diameter and 11.5mm depth, this is aimed squarely at a male audience. The 49g weight is comfortable to wear all day, and blends in well with any clothing. If anything, the only design flaw is a minor one — a small bar at the bottom of the watch face that houses the ambient light sensor and automatically adjusts the backlight.

The Moto 360 is part of the first generation of Android Wear devices, and much like its peers, it connects to an Android phone over Bluetooth to display notifications, like who's calling/emailing/messaging you. Without a phone, it does precious little — it can show you the time, alarms, your steps/heart rate and your day's appointments — and the health data cannot be exported for use in other apps. Navigation is via the on-screen swipes, and you can even respond to messages and emails, set reminders, navigate via maps, control music or take notes via the voice recognition system, but it's a bit of hit-and-miss. Android Wear is still very much a work in progress.

The biggest hurdle at this time is battery life. While charging is painless via the small inductive charging (wireless) dock, you get just over a day of battery life, and that's if you turn the ambient sensor off (approx. 15 hours if on). One more gadget to charge at night! It's certainly the best of the lot right now, but at Rs 17,999, it's a lot of money to pay for what is essentially a complementary device.

Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 17,999

A sleek winner

Lenovo's been pushing out capable, well priced phones that haven't exactly caused a splash, but the new Vibe Z2 Pro looks like it can change all that. A super phone in every sense of the term, the Z2 Pro packs in a 6-inch screen into a gorgeous brushed aluminium unibody chassis, although thanks to the really thin bezels, it feels a lot more compact (if that's possible!) than other devices with a 6-inch screen. That said, much like the iPhone 6 Plus, the slippery metal body makes the Z2 Pro prone to slipping.

One look at the pricing, and you'd think — this is another mid-range phablet with modest internals, targeted for folks just looking for a big screen and little else. You couldn't be more wrong — the Vibe Z2 Pro has a quad-HD resolution (2560x1440 pixels), Android 4.4 KitKat, a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, and a 16-megapixel camera. To add to that, there's a capacious 3GB of RAM and a colossal 4,000mAh battery and dual-SIM capabilities — all rarities at this price point. One caveat — there's only 32GB of internal storage, and the phone lacks a microSD card slot to add more capacity.

Honestly, despite the impressive hardware, what impressed me more were the neat software tricks Lenovo has built into Vibe UI. There's the Secure Zone, a separate phone zone with its own wallpaper and apps, which is great for segmenting work and personal phone use. Then there's the Micro screen mode, which shrinks the phone display into a much smaller, completely usable phone screen so that the phone functions can be accessed during one-handed use.

Forgive it for its large size, there's little to fault the Z2 Pro. Top-notch features at a bargain basement price, if you ask me.

Rating: 9/10
Price: Rs 32,999

Cain is able

The reports of the death of the iPad are greatly exaggerated, but I've been seeing a number of interesting tablet-laptop hybrids that are worth a look if you want one device that does it all. The Notion Ink Cain is a great example — it comes with 10.1in 1280x800 touchscreen, an Intel Atom quad-core processor, integrated Intel HD Graphics, Windows 8.1 and 2GB of RAM, but more importantly, it comes with a keyboard dock with trackpad which doubles as a flip cover. The result is a light 2-in-1 that goes from tablet to laptop in no time at all, and the while the keys aren't good for hammering out a 50,000-word book, it's up to daily use by any means. I'd have preferred a better mechanism to prop up the Cain while in laptop mode, and the speakers and camera are a tad mediocre, but the all-day battery life and innovative take on the 2-in-1 segment at a compelling price point is a big plus.

Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 19,990

A lighter touch

If you've used an entry-level Kindle previously, the first thing you'll notice in the new 2014 Kindle is that it lacks any buttons whatsoever. Yep, even the basic Kindle has now gone touchscreen, and the new touchscreen lets you do a host of things on the Kindle possible only on the higher-end Paperwhite version earlier — turn pages by a tap, highlight text, among others. There's no lag when you turn pages, thanks to the improved specifications under the hood. Bear in mind that this version lacks the backlight of the Paperwhite, which is particularly useful for reading at night or to increase contrast in sunny settings.

What Amazon has done is take a capable product and improved it just enough to provide a more economical alternative to the slightly pricier Paperwhite. My take? This is great for the kids, but if you can, spend a bit extra for the Paperwhite.

Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 5,999

Budget offerings

Google's budget Android One initiative is great news for customers looking for a clean Android experience in the $100 (Rs 6,000) segment. I spent some time with the Spice Dream Uno, but this could as well be a review of any of the three Android One offerings — they all look the same, plain rectangular slabs with 4.5-inch 480x854 pixel displays, but the plastic feels durable and sturdy.

All three phones are powered by the same MediaTek chipset with a quad-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 4GB of internal storage, but thanks to the bloat-free UI, the phones tackle everyday tasks, casual gaming and basic multi-tasking just fine. Dual-SIM support is standard and while there's the ability to add capacity via micro-SD, there's no support for USB On-the-Go drives for instant storage expansion, and if you're a particularly heavy user, you may need to add some juice before the end of the day.

In the end, what you get is a smooth experience and regular software updates courtesy Google, but is it enough to choose these over the Xiaomi Redmi 1S? The Xiaomi has better specifications, a better camera and battery life, which takes some of the bite out of Google's current crop of Android One devices.

Rating: 7/10
Price: Rs 6,299 (Spice)