Microsoft’s Surface 3 was, at least in the subdued PC market, a relative success, selling well despite a rather steep price point for what it provides hardware-wise (something we criticised1). At nearly 500 (£690 in the US, which is around AU£920) when you factor in the detachable keyboard and the stylus, it comes across as an expensive tablet even by Microsoft’s standards, especially as the competition has heated up in the 2-in-1 segment. So it comes as no surprise that, just like the MacBook Pro2 and the Yoga 3 (both of which had very similar competitors in the shape of the Xiaomi Air 123 and the Voyo VBook V34), the Surface 3 has attracted the attention of one Chinese vendor, Jumper.
The latter has unleashed the EZpad 5S, a Windows tablet with a detachable keyboard which is remarkably similar to the Surface 3.
Gearbest sent us a review unit the device5 is currently on sale for just under 185 (£238, which is around AU£320) with the keyboard. Oddly, the model we received doesn’t look like the one that’s displayed on Gearbest’s product page the card reader is located on the side rather than under the kickstand, and there’s one microUSB port in lieu of a full-size USB 2.0. We strongly advise you to read our article on the pros and cons of buying from Chinese retailers6 (and generally speaking, outside of the UK).
The Jumper EZpad 5S comes with the detachable keyboard, standard charger, a USB cable, and surprise, surprise, a stylus. Funnily enough, there’s no mention of the latter on the product page and it didn’t work when we tried it. You don’t need yet another charger as you can charge this tablet from pretty much any existing USB-equipped device and charger; and yes, that even includes portable battery packs.
The biggest difference between this slate and Microsoft’s effort is the aspect ratio of the display. To put it simply, the EZpad 5S looks like a stretched Surface 3, but other than this the differences between the two are relatively small.
The rather thick black bezel is there with the silver border and the slightly tapered edges. The physical Windows home button has been moved but the metal kickstand which locks in two positions (about 40- and 85-degrees) is present. The tablet’s enclosure is entirely made of brushed aluminium; Jumper says that it is as strong as stainless steel but a third lighter. From afar though, it looks like plastic painted to resemble, well, brushed aluminium.
The glass display is glossy and as expected, is a major fingerprint magnet, but that’s an endemic problem for (most) entry-level tablets in general. Microsoft used an Atom x7-Z8700 CPU for the Surface 3; Jumper opted for a much slower (and cheaper) x3-Z8300 processor instead.
The main differences between the two are the base frequencies (1.44GHz vs 1.6GHz), the burst frequencies (1.84GHz vs 2.4GHz) and the graphics units’ burst frequencies (500MHz vs 600MHz). Open the device up and you will see 4GB of RAM and 64GB on-board storage (eMMC) plus a large 8500mAh battery.
The EZpad 5S has a larger 11.6-inch display compared to Surface 3’s 10.8-inch screen, which translates into a lower pixel density, but that won’t mean much if you plan to use it mostly with a keyboard. The rest of the specification includes rear and front cameras (5MP and full HD respectively), Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi, and on both sides, a mini-HDMI port, a pair of speakers, a headphone jack, an SD card slot, one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port and a microUSB one.
The power button and volume rocker can be found on the top, while the magnetic connector for the keyboard is located at the opposite end.
The keyboard cover adds some significant thickness to the keyboard but is a welcome addition. The tablet measures 276 x 172 x 8mm and weighs 676g, and the keyboard increases the overall weight by another 50%, to just over 1kg. Despite being a passive keyboard, it worked quite well, and is probably the best keyboard typing experience we’ve had on a cover-type model from any vendor and that includes the likes of Microsoft. Sure, it is a tad small and should ideally have taken the whole width of the cover, but it has a decent size touchpad, and the fact that it is rather thick (9mm) means there is at least some travel and spring.
Don’t expect miracles though the keys are tiny so will require some adjustment for touch typing, especially as there’s barely any space between them. Fat-fingered typists will probably have a worse typing experience, predictably enough. The touchpad is smaller than a credit card but produces a useful click when pressed harder, and it’s precise.
The IPS display, although sharp, lacked the punch usually associated with brighter monitors. We also noted that blacks were lacking and that wasn’t helped by the glare caused by the glass overlay, which added what looks like a layer of smog, even when we pushed the brightness setting to 100%. Having a metal body is useful to dissipate heat as the EZpad 5S doesn’t have an active fan, but it still got fairly hot in our tests. General performance was, as expected, significantly worse than most of the products we test here.
And the main culprits are the processor and the storage subsystem. We tested the Jumper tablet with Passmark, CPU-Z, GeekBench and Cinebench; unfortunately, CrystalDiskMark wouldn’t run. You can see the results below.
We didn’t extensively test its battery life but we managed to play a YouTube video for about 3 hours 5 minutes on maximum brightness bear in mind that the battery saving mode kicked in on 20% battery life. That’s a decent result but a far cry from the Surface 3. You won’t buy the EZpad for its audio performance; the pair of speakers on this tablet is one of the worst we’ve encountered. The rendition of Alicia Keys phenomenal New York was appalling to say the least. All the ingredients for even an average audio experience were missing: there was barely any depth, a lack of definition, and muddled sound at higher frequencies. You could easily mistake this cacophony for the sound coming out of a pair of cheap smartphone earbuds.
And as with most of the Chinese devices we’ve tested up until now, the Windows 10 operating system has already been pre-registered, and ours even came with a Chinese version of WinRAR.
The Jumper EZpad is a better-than-average product with not much to be criticised concerning its performance or build. Sure, the battery life is poor and the speakers are terrible, but that’s about all on the moaning front. However, as with most products that ship directly from China, we have more than a few reservations, such as the OS installation and, as we mentioned before, be sure to check out our guide7 to online Chinese retailers. The truth of the matter is, though, that the competition outside the Surface 3 is, well, almost non-existent. The Acer Aspire Switch 11 V8 may have a much faster CPU but it also costs around twice the price. Ditto for the HP Pavilion x29 which is actually even more expensive (while having a better CPU and quadruple the storage).
As such the EZpad 5S almost wins by default sadly, none of the big players (Dell, Lenovo and HP) have anything even remotely competitive.
- ^ something we criticised (www.techradar.com)
- ^ MacBook Pro (www.techradar.com)
- ^ Xiaomi Air 12 (www.techradar.com)
- ^ Voyo VBook V3 (www.techradar.com)
- ^ device (www.gearbest.com)
- ^ pros and cons of buying from Chinese retailers (www.techradar.com)
- ^ guide (www.techradar.com)
- ^ Aspire Switch 11 V (www.techradar.com)
- ^ HP Pavilion x2 (www.techradar.com)
When Sony unveiled two new versions of the PS4 during its special PlayStation Meeting in New York it rather glossed over the new, slimmer version of the console, dubbed the PS4 Slim – but which will become the de facto PS4. The company understandably put greater focus on the higher specified 4K gaming powerhouse that is the PS4 Pro1, which is due out November 2016. And as the PS4 Slim had been leaked in full a couple of weeks before the event there was little left to reveal that hadn t already been published across the entire internet. There could be another, even more obvious reason why, though. For all intents and purposes, the PS4 Slim is just the standard PlayStation 4 in an all-new body.
PlayStation 4 Slim review: Design
The new shape and build of the PS4 Slim looks like the console has been on the Atkins diet for a while. But although other consoles have benefitted from trimming down in the past, such as the PS3 and, more recently, the Xbox One S, the new PS4 aesthetic makes it look cheaper than the last, despite its 259 asking price.
The new matte and mottled exterior looks more Primark than premium. And the rounded corners give it an air of Fisher Price over flagship device. Still, it is a PS4 the latest iteration of the fastest selling console of all time and something that continues to bring a smile onto millions of faces on a daily basis. As soon as you load your first game you realise that its superficial looks are irrelevant, and at least some of the new design decisions make sense. The physical power and eject buttons are easier to use than the weird touch-enabled strips on the original. And the glowing strip that indicates whether the PS4 is switched on or in standby mode has sensibly been reduced to a single LED under the buttons. It won’t bother your eyeline so much when sat under a TV.
The slimmer build is also better suited to standing on its end using an optional stand, if that’s your bag. The footprint is also designed to better hide it away in an AV cabinet as it is dinky smaller even than the latest Xbox.
There is one caveat. For some reason unbeknownst to us, the optical digital audio output on the rear has disappeared. That might not affect many, but is bad news for those who would rather feed sound directly into separate speakers that don’t accept HDMI. All other ports, including two USB 3.1 sockets, Ethernet, the aforementioned HDMI and an AUX hole for the PlayStation Camera are still present.
PlayStation 4 Slim review: HDR incoming
As for gaming, its primary function, the PS4 Slim is superb as good as the original for sure. System software 4.0 was recently made available as a download for this and former PlayStation 4 models and it really enhances the machine in terms of functionality.
Since its original launch, Sony has regularly updated the console, adding new features all the way. But the most recent gives the experience a new coat of paint in the form of a refined, better looking user interface and High Dynamic Range (HDR) support. The latter feature is only relevant for those with a HDR-enabled television and requires games to support the wider colour gamut and deeper contrast it affords. Sadly, there are no titles available as yet, but when the PS4 Pro launches in November, you can expect to see a flood of enabled games, including many existing titles that will add the video feature through downloadable patches.
PlayStation 4 Slim review: New software
The latest user interface is similarly laid out as before but vastly superior in many ways. You can now create folders to store groups of games or apps, and a tidier on-screen design looks sharper and neater. While it isn’t quite as complex as the Xbox One dashboard, we find it is easier to navigate and get to the most important aspects namely playing games.
Sony Interactive Entertainment
This is where any PS4 excels and the Slim is no different. Thanks to better graphics processing, it soon became apparent after the launch of this generation of console gaming that the PlayStation 4 was superior than the Xbox One, often attaining better resolutions and/or frame rates on comparable games. Microsoft recently responded with the superb Xbox One S, which upped the hardware ante somewhat, and while the slim version of the PS4 hasn’t been tweaked in the same fashion, it is still highly capable of up to 1080p gaming at 60 frames per second. Three years of heritage also means that developers are wringing more out of the hardware than ever before. The Sony PS4 plays host to some incredible games these days, not least Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and the new Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. We’re not sure they’d have been possible a few years back.
PlayStation 4 Slim review: New controller
Such games also play well on the new DualShock 4 controller, which comes in the box and has an added, player-facing LED light strip along the top of the controller’s touch panel.
This, we were informed, is so players can see it without having to flip the gamepad over, to see which colour they are during multiplayer games or the like. The new pad also adds the ability of communication through the USB port. This means you can use it with a PC, for example, without any complicated set-up processes.
PlayStation 4 Slim review: No 4K UHD Blu-ray
We’ve found that the new PS4 is less noisy than our regular beast, at least when playing games off the hard drive. There were times this summer that our original PS4 sounded like an industrial leaf blower (probably down to the accumulation of dust in its vents over time), but we’ve had no such issues with the PS4 Slim. The disc drive makes a little noise when turning, but it’s nothing in comparison.
That’s with both game discs and Blu-rays or DVDs. It’s a crying shame that Sony decided against upgrading the drive to one that can spin 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays, something Microsoft added to the latest Xbox One, but the HDMI port isn’t 4K compatible anyway, so it’s irrelevant in this case. Another disappointing decision, we feel, is that the new PS4 only comes with a 500GB hard drive. A 1TB model of the existing PlayStation 4 was released to cater for those who want to build large games libraries and it seems stingy to revert back to half that capacity. We were told it was a cost issue, to keep the price down to 259, but we’d rather have the option, much like Microsoft offers with the Xbox One S, which comes in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB flavours (at increasing price points, of course).
You can upgrade the PS4 hard drive, though, and it’s even easier on the new model with a slide-out HDD caddy hidden under a flap near the rear. We swapped ours for a Samsung 2TB 2.5-inch drive and, as long as you have the right screwdriver to hand (a Phillips #1), it’s very easy going. It cost us an extra 80 for the drive, but that’s well worth it.
There’s little doubt that when viewed on its own terms, with little comparison to rivals or the former model, that the PS4 Slim is an excellent games console. It might not be as pretty as its older brother, but it is as capable. And considering the PS4 currently reigns supreme as the king of consoles, it is a no-brainer for those who have looked longingly at the PlayStation games line-up and couldn t afford to join in previously. However, Microsoft has recently upped its game with the Xbox One S, which has a lot more to offer than the PS4 Slim, thanks to 4K upscaling and a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player built-in. Both consoles now have HDR gaming capabilities, which is a great leap forward, but Sony’s omission of the physical UHD Blu-ray format (one it is heavily pushing itself) means the Xbox One S is more attractive at the same price point. Then, of course, there is the PS4 Pro2. Coming in November, the Pro is a far more capable version of the PlayStation 4, with the potential of 4K gaming (albeit with clever upscaling techniques by developers). It has more powerful processing and greater RAM so it is better futureproofed too. And as it’s only 90 more expensive than the PS4 Slim with a 1TB hard drive as standard, we can see many opting to save up a little extra cash for that monster instead.
So while the latest iteration of the PS4 is a great console and very well timed considering PlayStation VR is just around the corner too we wonder what kind of impact it will make.
- ^ higher specified 4K gaming powerhouse that is the PS4 Pro (www.pocket-lint.com)
- ^ there is the PS4 Pro (www.pocket-lint.com)
Samsung’s 2016 flagship smartphone the Galaxy S7 has been a huge hit with critics. It’s widely considered to be the best Android alternative to the iPhone 6S since its release earlier this year. Apple now has a brand new phone to rival it the all-new iPhone 7. The phone launches tomorrow and should be one of the best smartphones money can buy. The iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S7 will be competing as the two best iOS and Android handsets on the market. So how do they compare?
In terms of looks, these are two of the most attractive smartphones on the market right now. “Either one would be in the final of a smartphone beauty pageant and the judges would have a hard time picking a winner”, says Stuff1. The site says that the phone’s “metal edges and solid glass rear scream premium, both in and out of your hands”. Go for the larger S7 Edge model and the edges of the display curve around into the sides of the handset. The latest iPhone has a similar appearance to the last one and is still a looker. With a round, anodised aluminium casing that looks tidier than the one on the iPhone 6S, it’s exactly the same size and shape as its predecessor.
Both phones sport water and dust resistant designs but the S7 is the tougher phone it has an IP68 rating compared to the iPhone 7’s IP67 protection.
The iPhone is marginally the smaller device of the two and as such its 4.7ins display can’t match the 5.1ins panel Samsung has packed into the frame of the S7. On paper, the technology powering the display lags too. Apple is still using LCD Retina displays, with a resolution of 750 x 1334 and a pixel density of 326ppi on the iPhone 7. Supposedly this one is 25 per cent brighter and the new wide colour gamut means you should see brighter, more vibrant tones. Like the iPhone 6S, the iPhone 7’s display has pressure-sensitive 3D Touch too. You can use it for shortcuts and peeking into apps without loading them up. The Galaxy S7 is an AMOLED phone sporting a 1,440 x 2,560 resolution with a pixel density of 577ppi. Alphr2 says it’s simply “one of the best displays you can get on a smartphone right now”. The Super AMOLED technology produces deep blacks, radiant tones, and pinpoint sharp pictures. It lacks the iPhone’s 3D Touch capability, but the site says everything else is superior “it’s clear that one screen is much better than the other”.
Both phones make use of 12 megapixel main cameras with optical image stabilisation to combat shaky hands, and while Apple has made the aperture on its new device much wider to let in more light something that should lead to big improvements in low light photography the f/1.8 opening isn’t as wide as the Samsung’s f/1.7. In theory, Samsung’s phone should be better when conditions are less than ideal. Both have their own set of perks. The new iPhone 7 camera has a powerful quad LED True Tone flash, as well as a sensor that can compensate for flickers of artificial light indoor shots and those taken in light-filled areas should produce crisp, clean images. Alternatively, Samsung’s phone has dual-pixel technology, meaning it can focus rapidly.
Both phones have front facing cameras too, though Apple has stepped up its game significantly the selfie snapper on the iPhone 7 is a 7 megapixel sensor, whereas the Galaxy S7’s is 5mp.
Performance, battery life and hardware
This year’s new iPhone gets an all-new chipset. Called the A10 Fusion, Apple claims that it’s 40 per cent faster than the A9 you’ll find in the iPhone 6S and that it’s also more efficient. The A10 is a quad core processor. Two of the cores deal with low power tasks like refreshing apps in the background and receiving messages, while the other two come to life for more demanding tasks. As such, Apple claims that this new iPhone has better battery life than its predecessor by around two hours that’s 14 hours of talk time and about 40 hours of music. In the UK, Samsung’s phone uses an octa-core Exynos 8890 chip mated to 4GB RAM. On paper, it means that the Galaxy S7 is an immensely powerful smartphone, though as 3 Expert Reviews3 points out, Apple’s phones are usually highly optimised. On paper, the S7 is stronger, but the iPhone’s efficiency could win out.
The S7 will probably last longer though Samsung claims a 22-hour talk time for its top end smartphone. Unlike older Samsung phones, the battery is not removable. Both phones have fingerprint scanners embedded in their home buttons and come equipped with NFC chips for Apple Pay and Android Pay abilities. In terms of storage, Apple’s new iPhone is offered with 32GB, 128GB, or 256GB of on board memory. The Galaxy S7 can be bought with 32GB or 64GB, though there’s a Micro SD card slot that accepts memory cards up to 256GB in size.
One of the most controversial hardware omissions on the new iPhone is the headphone jack. You can either use Lightning port ready headphones or the adaptor bundled with the phone to listen to music.
Samsung’s phone has been on the market for six months now, and is priced from 569, making it a cheaper device than the iPhone 7. When Apple’s phone launches tomorrow, it’ll be priced higher at 599. A 30 difference isn’t that much when both phones are priced comfortably towards 600, but ramping up the specs on your iPhone 7 could make it a very expensive proposition indeed. If you want the 256GB version, it’s priced from 799 going for a Galaxy S7 and buying a 256GB Micro SD card separately works out a lot cheaper.
Given that the iPhone 7 hasn’t been released yet and time with the phone has been limited, most tech sites can only deliver initial verdicts more in depth results will arrive in time.
Alphr4 reckons that the final scores are close too close to warrant jumping over from one system to the other. If you’re already in the iOS ecosystem, the iPhone 7 is worth sticking around for. Similarly for Android fans, the Galaxy S7 means there’s no need to move over to Apple.
Similarly, Trusted Reviews5 says that for many buyers the best way to choose is to opt for your preferred operating system. Initial impressions suggest it’s too close a call in terms of hardware, power and how good the cameras are, so let your preferred system determine your decision.
Expert Reviews6 points out that the S7 is the better value phone, however. For a cheaper price tag, you’ll be buying power, excellent cameras and one of the best smartphone displays money can buy. Price certainly makes a compelling case for the Galaxy S7.