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April showers are rolling in, and so is the next generation of high-end smartphones. On TechRadar this week we've got a full review of the HTC One, the Chinese company's hail mary play to save its dwindling market share. We've also snagged some hands on time with its number one competitor, the Galaxy S4.
We also spent some time at PAX East and GDC where we played with the Moga Pro, an Android and Windows Phone controller that does a nice Xbox impression. We also tried the Android-based Ouya, a possible Dark Horse in the upcoming console race.
Overall, we were a little nonplussed initially by the Samsung Galaxy S4. It's superbly impressive that it has crammed so much stuff into a smaller chassis than the Galaxy S3, and while there's not a lot of difference cosmetically bar beefing up the structural integrity of the device and putting stronger glass on the front (Gorilla Glass 3 isn't to be sniffed at though), Samsung has tied it all together in a great way.
Will it sell by the bucketload? Undoubtedly. Does it represent a huge step forward for Samsung? No, so it will be interested to see how it's marketed to consumers, or whether, like the iPhone 5, there will be apathy and a desire to stick with last year's cheaper model when the phone launches on 16 April.
As we said, this is the best HTC phone ever, without a doubt. But we'll go one better than that: it's the best phone on the market full stop. The Samsung Galaxy S3 isn't too far behind at all as it's a lot cheaper than the HTC One, but for sheer level of functionality, innovation and just overall effect it has in the hand, we can't help but recommend the HTC One to anyone looking to buy a new smartphone.
We would caveat that recommendation with the items mentioned above - the battery life being the main one, as it will really depend on how you use the phone on whether you'll love it or hate it. There's no doubt that Samsung makes better phones for the power user, at least in terms of battery consumption, but they're also made of plastic, where the One is probably the most premium-feeling out there.
Despite having actually seen, touched and played an Ouya, the console still feels pretty enigmatic. Like any video game system, it's going to live or die by its games, and we're still not sure what those will be. While we found the titles from our demo to be well adapted to the console and charmingly odd, none of them struck us as system sellers.
Of course, this was not the final launch line-up. Team Ouya could blow us all away next week with an amazing, must-have title. In fact, next week would be great timing, because with the launch scheduled for June, the Ouya is running out of time to garner true mainstream appeal.
Loss of portability aside, the Moga Pro bests its predecessor, the Moga Pocket, in every way. It's familiar, comfortable and really improves the mobile gaming experience where touchscreen controls tend to be a glass ceiling.
You might feel a little silly whipping this thing out on the bus, but with a battery rated at 14 hours, it'll last the whole trip. And as far we could tell, when the public transportation gets bumpy, that tight gripping bracket will keep your phone from taking a tumble.
The Ego HD offers excellent still image quality. And while the video quality isn't necessarily as sharp as that of the GoPro Hero 3, it was more than good enough for YouTube. We liked that the Ego HD is Wi-Fi-enabled which makes it relatively simple to control, but we still don't understand why more companies don't use Bluetooth. More than anything we appreciated the price point. At well below $200, the Ego HD is wildly affordable.
If you're in the market for an action cam you'd be remiss to not consider options other than industry juggernaut GoPro. With their Apex HD + Wi-Fi camera / goggles and the Ego HD Liquid Image has action camera options for any sport you're into.
While the internal hardware certainly underscores the "you get what you pay for" adage, there is a enough packed into this little gadget to impress you with what you pay for it. T-Mobile currently offers the L9 for $48.99 plus a fee for a two-year contract. Or, you can pick it up for $199.99 without an annual contract. For someone on a budget who needs a smartphone, the contract is an attractive offer, but just be sure to check the T-Mobile coverage in your area.
While we wish the camera was higher quality, and that the processor had a bit of updated speed over the L7, the bottom line is that that the price on this phone with the features it offers are what makes it an attractive purchase. If you need the latest, greatest tech, this phone isn't for you. But, if you need a device that can handle everything a normal user would need for work or pleasure, this is a low-cost buddy that you will love to have at your side.
Looking for a little "extra feedback" in your life? Don't call your therapist or that special friend who's always been there for you. Call Recon Instruments, because they've got just the ticket, especially if you're a snow sports junkie. It's called the Mod Live HUD, and it's going to give you all the stats, maps, apps and chats you can handle.
Not to mention all of the action cameras like the GoPro Hero 3 or even the Apex HD + Camera Goggles by Liquid Image, there are also a number of smartphone skiing / snowboarding apps that can track the speed, distance and vertical drop of your runs, the Mod Live HUD takes the concept a few steps further by integrating a GPS and Bluetooth equipped mini-computer and LCD screen into your goggles.
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