Friday, 13 July 2018

MOTO Z IN 2018

Phone reviewers don't often get to experience the real world use pattern that most folk do, their typical exposure to devices being 2 weeks rather than 2 years! So this one's quite rare for me. I bought the Moto Z on release in September 2016, nearly 2 years ago, and I thought that given the above, and the fact that Android Oreo just dropped in, it would be a good point to look back at that period and see how it performs now, compared to more modern phones. This was the first of three generations of Z phones by Motorola/Lenovo which they committed to the system of Moto Mods.

Reflection
The Moto Z has, to some degree, been on the back-burner for a lot of this time, especially after the release of the Moto Z2 Play which seemed to be a better all-round Moto Z model. On reflection, I'm not so sure about that, though it certainly does have a couple of key advantages like a bigger battery and 3.5mm audio-out socket. But also a downside or two, like the lower resolution screen and lower chipset.

Still Flying
In the company of devices like the Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC 10, LG V20 and G5, the Moto Z had a cutting edge Snapdragon 820 with 4GB RAM which enabled the device to fly. It still does. It was also the first modern smartphone widely released to market with no 3.5mm audio-out socket and USB-C instead (regardless of claims elsewhere) which I really haven't found to be a limitation, but do accept that opinion remains divided. The 4GB RAM proves how forward thinking Moto were with this. We're still seeing Android phones without AndroidOne or Go coming with 3GB, and in some cases 2!

Thin and Light
It has a super bright 5.5" AMOLED 1440p 16:9 screen protected with Gorilla Glass 4 which still only gets used here indoors set to 10% and remains more than adequate. Colours are punchy, blacks are deep. The vibrant setting makes that even more so. It's obviously the same size as all the Z-Series phones so that the Mods fit, but it is super-thin at 5.2mm which, at the time, was a big WOW for many and remains the thinnest/lightest of any Z-Series handset. I maintain that modern 2:1 screens are a gimmick, as are Notches and bezel-free design with nowhere left to put your fingers.

Pragmatic
The Z was made of glass and aluminium, wafer-thin and classy in the hand, buttons metalic, solid and firm to the press. USB-C was pretty new at the time, too. This really was a very forward-looking device. There was apparently a 64GB version out there somewhere, but I never saw one in the UK. This one is 32GB which irks in 2018, but pragmatically and laying aside any paranoia, armed with a big microSD Card for everything that could go onto it, I really didn't have a problem.

Dreaming
It was also one of the first devices which supported Daydream and Google's vision for VR Headsets. The higher resolution screen ensured that the experience was as good as it could be and although I no longer have a headset I did try that out at the time. It wasn't great - and I think that it still isn't to be honest - but other firms are making headway with it, like Samsung. Point is though, that few handsets are ahead with this much further and Moto had this out there two years ago alongside Nexus.

Mellow
Hard to think that less than two years ago a device was sold with Android 6 on it! How expectations change! Nougat 7 came along almost exactly a year ago, in July 2017 and we've had to wait for a full further 12 months for Oreo to drop, unless, it seems, we lived in Brazil where Lenovorola seem to execute testing and push updates out first. That promise of updates seems like an awful long time ago now and whilst others leap-frogged Moto to updating various devices to Oreo, they just didn't really seemed bothered and were determined to take their own sweet time! To be fair, the others didn't have to ensure capability with a range of Mods, but I'll come to that.

TurboPower
The battery, on the face of it, was pitched at 2600mAh in order to pay thinness off against power, with the trick up their sleeve of course, of more juice via Mods (which they could flog!). The battery size always made me uncomfortable but to be honest, I can't remember a day when I didn't have a Mod battery snapped on anyway. It felt like the 'thin' thing was for posing. For fashion. For pushing boundaries. Yes, if you limit your use of it through the day you'll get to evening no problem - and many people no doubt did - but with even the 2220mAh Mod in place, which really doesn't add much thickness, you're suddenly well ahead of the trailing pack with nearly 5000mAh in your pocket. There was a TurboPower plug and cable in the box which gives 8 hours of power in 15 minutes of charging.

Rounded
The Moto speaker arrangement here is one! Firing sound out of the earpiece also used for calls. Over the years, since the forward-firing stereo speakers of some Moto devices (X, G) were taken away, they have reverted to this earpiece thing and actually, I think it works pretty well. Up against other devices with a single (often bottom-firing) speaker it frequently sounds better. It sounds rounded and good quality, if not the loudest. But I'd much rather have that quality than to compromise with a tinny payoff and volume. But then we have the Mods - what a payoff that is! Armed with a JBL stereo speaker, you're suddenly party-ready.

DAC
Going back to the headphone output via USB-C for a moment, Motorola had included, built into the handset itself, 24bit DAC which means that high quality audio output can be achieved through the supplied earphones, USB-C enabled headphones or via the supplied dongle out to 3.5mm. The sound through my headphones is fabulous! Again, ahead of the pack and times as this feature becomes more common.

Squircle
The fingerprint scanner is on the front, down at the bottom under the screen (where there's ample space to put your fingers and thumbs!) and it's a near-squircle! By today's standards it's small - even Moto themselves re-thought this for all models going forward and introduced the 'pill' shaped bigger scanner (which also doubled as a swipe-navigation control freeing up screen space). The small square scanner is perfectly good and works really well still. When compared with some of the side-mounted (particularly Sony) scanners, it's not that much smaller. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and it works perfectly well. The registration is lightning fast as is execution every time. Of course, the near-unique Moto trick here also is that a single-press on that scanner also turns off the screen. Fiendish. I still don't know why this wasn't adopted (nor the Moto Approach for quick wave-over Glance information).

Snap
The main camera is a 13MP f1.8 unit with laser AF and OIS, so no slouch, and a 5MP f2.2 front-shooter. 4K video recording is available, again, with OIS integrated. The camera is simple by today's standards. No fancy bokeh modes or secondary zoom/wide lens. But it's perfectly good for people to take perfectly good photos. The lens is good and fast and it does much better than many in low light. Who needs fancy modes anyway! An image is collected via a hole which stays open for a length of time!

Modification
Overarching all the aforementioned, is the ongoing access the device has to the Moto Mod system. A system that still seems to be expanding. Not at a hugely fast rate, but steady. There have been some Mods which were talked about but never seen, some which were out from Day 1, many in between. What's nice about this is that the phone is 2 years old and they've stuck to the plan. They all fit and work, camera, projector, game-pad, batteries, printers, keyboard (still coming apparently!), stereo speakers, Alexa speakers, vehicle docks, wireless charging backs, style backs and probably some I missed! It's a great fun modular system and can hugely enhance a person's use of the phone. But I've covered that aplenty over the months.

Stand or Sit
The question is, does it stand up to being used as a daily phone after 2 years - and the answer is a resounding yes! There's no reason at all why this can't be used ongoingly. The Oreo update has brought some of those features which we're seeing in many devices these days with the latest version of Android. P-I-P, split-screen, emoji, app security scanning, notification and settings revamp, Auto-Fill, etc. But this is more about the user feeling not forgotten and up to date. Moto has now brought this along for their faithful followers and investors in the Mod system. We don't really need 18:9 screens and handsets that are too tall for their own good. We don't need fancy camera modes. We don't need Notches. We don't need zero bezel. I'm pleased to still have the Moto Z in stock and will continue to enjoy using the ground-breaking phone.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

ELO: Time

It's Clearly Time for the Electric Light Orchestra! This a 180g Clear Vinyl re-release version of the LP.

Wiki
Time is a concept album by ELO from 1981 written about a man from the 1980s who is taken to the year 2095, where he is confronted by the dichotomy between technological advancement and a longing for past romance.

The album signalled a departure from the band's sound by emphasising electronics over its usual orchestra.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

DAVID BOWIE: CHANGES ONE

Here presented in Clear 180g LP 'guise.

It's an album that I can't remember not having!

It's a kind of compilation really, but seems to stand up in its own right.

Originally released in 1976 and featuring songs from the previous few albums including Space Oddity, Ziggy, Aladin, Dogs, Young Americans and Station.

One to revisit frequently :-)

MEAT LOAF: BAT OUT OF HELL

Seemed like a reasonable Wednesday afternoon indulgence!
My blood red 180g LP going for a spin on a hot day.

Such a wonderfully constructed album. Jim Steinman - much overlooked - pulling the strings.
Interesting to also give his album Bad for Good an outing, which allegedly was scheduled for Meat Loaf to sing but he had to bail out because of illness.

Anyway, this one remains a peach and one of my generations' super-albums.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

DIRE STRAITS: LOVE OVER GOLD

Dire Straits' music doesn't seem to date, somehow, like other stuff can. This is as enjoyable now as it was first time round! This is a 180g LP bought relatively recently on the cheap from AmazonUK. Private Investigations is addictive and along with Telegraph Road engulfing Side 1, there's almost no need to turn it over ;-)

Wiki
Love over Gold is the fourth studio album by the British rock band Dire Straits released on 20th September 1982. The album produced two singles, "Private Investigations", which reached number 2 on the UK Singles Chart, and "Industrial Disease", which reached number 9 on Billboard's Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in the United States. The fourteen-minute opus, "Telegraph Road" has gone on to become a favourite on FM radio worldwide. The album reached number 1 on album charts in Australia, Austria, Italy, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom, and number 19 in the United States. Love over Gold was later certified gold in the United States, platinum in France and Germany and double-platinum in Canada and the United Kingdom.

GOD HELP THE GIRL

As modern Musicals go, this is a peach indeed. Very well written and executed songs, help together by the scrumptious Emily Browning! It's earthy in places, reflecting the story of ordinary people trying to make a mark in music. This double 180g LP is a real soundtrack with much of the dialogue surviving where infused with songs.

Wiki
God Help the Girl is a musical project by Stuart Murdoch, leader of the Scottish indie group Belle and Sebastian, featuring a group of female vocalists, including Catherine Ireton, with Belle and Sebastian as the accompanying band. The project has released a self-titled album, an EP and several singles. Central to the project is a musical film, featuring songs from the project's recorded releases. The film was released in 2014. The songs of the project God Help the Girl belong to the genre of indie pop and resemble the other output of Belle and Sebastian in tone – two songs (Funny Little Frog and Act of the Apostle) were taken directly from the earlier repertory of this group. However, contrary to the earlier work of Belle and Sebastian (a group dominated by male performers), female vocalists (who are not members of the group) play the main role in the project. The songs themselves also tell about the problems of young girls entering adult life.

Monday, 9 July 2018

HANDY FACE-FAN

The Haptime Mini Fan is very much a face-fan. Hold it within 3 inches of your face and it does a fair cooling act on your mug! It's really cute and handbag-ready or tall pocket fit. I have a pair of cargo trousers which has a thin, long pocket on the side (I think designed for a workman's spanner or something) in which it fits perfectly. It's about 6 inches long, made of solid plastic and has a pull-off lid, about the size of two lipsticks. The blades are very soft, so you'd have to be really stupid to hurt yourself with it, and the central chamber pulls out revealing 2 x AA batteries. It actually comes supplied with a set. There's a simple on/off slider switch.

The main selling point of this though is the handy size and shape - like a pair of reading glasses in a tube - throw it in a bag/pocket and forget about it until needed. Apparently a fresh set of batteries are good for 8 hours use, but that's with the supplied. I'm guessing that with a set of new Duracell cells it would be longer. It's quite hard to test that as nobody's going to use one of these continuously for 8 hours+ and it can only really be judged over time.

The main complaint will be the power of the fan, I'm thinking. It isn't very strong and wouldn't be much use in serious heat but for the average UK day, it's just fine if held, as I say, nice and close to the face. For a few quid I think it's worth throwing in a bag. 

£7.99 at AmazonUK

MOTO Z IN 2018

Phone reviewers don't often get to experience the real world use pattern that most folk do, their typical exposure to devices being 2 ...