Thursday 31 December 2020

PodHub UK Podcasts for December 2020


...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Projector Room
Episode 76 - The Unhinged Chicken
Wednesday 2nd December 2020
Do join Gareth, Allan and I as we once again take our fortnightly look at film, cinema and TV. This time we consider a Danish delight, top animation from Japan, some crackers coming soon and a considered look at how much Contagion got right about pandemics in Private Screening.

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 5th December 2020
Steve and I are back with another helping of all things mobile phone. This time we're joined by Zachary Kew-Denniss to look at smartphone sizes across the last decade or so.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 6th December 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Is the under-screen camera arriving at last? Perhaps three fat ladies are arriving with Qualcomm? YouTube and Maps tweaks, stocking-fillers aplenty and loads more, so do join us!

The Phones Show
Wednesday 9th December 2020
Join Steve for a festive filmed feast of all things mobile phone once more! Would your Top 5 have looked different? And that Samsung is looking like a corker!

Whatever Works
Episode 126 - Planet Spaced Out
Friday 11th December 2020
Aidan and I are back with our fortnightly selection-box of goodies as we dig deep into the ottoman of Whatever Works for us and you! Oodles of oddments including Maggie's Nut Cracker, a very smart watch and even a trip to the ISS for all!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 12th December 2020
Steve and I are back again and we seem to be having a Samsung-flavoured couple of weeks. Lots of thoughts about that and much more, along with a topper Top 5 Phones.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 13th December 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Fancy a fogged-up under-screen camera? Are Sony ever going to put a decent camera in their phones? Thoughts on Fuchsia and Kaleidoscope? What more could you want? Bargains from the basement? Oh, OK then! Do join us.

Projector Room
Episode 77 - Beyond Darkness
Wednesday 16th December 2020
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with our fortnightly roundup of what we've been watching on TV, in film and at the cinema. Loads of good stuff of course, with a Private Screening of The Hole in the Ground.

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 19th December 2020
Steve and I welcome Michael Warner back for (what should be) our cheerful xmas edition of the show! (Perhaps next year, eh!) We chat about all things mobile phone for an hour including some great device comparisons and views.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 20th December 2020
We're back again, so why not join us as Gareth and I have a crack at our first two-hour podcast together! (Spoiler: We didn't quite get there.) Plenty of tech chat as always including Google-bashing, Google-praising, retro and modern gaming galore, new apps and bargains that you might even get before Santa arrives if you move your arse/click-finger quickly! Enjoy.  Merry xmas from us both. Hic!

Whatever Works
Episode 127 - Yuletide Beans and Bread
Friday 25th December 2020
Festive cheer to one and all as Aidan and I bring you a seasonal sprinkling of all things that glitter! Specifically more of Whatever Works for us and you good folks who keep things going with us. So have a good time everyone and tune in, instead of sitting through another re-run of The Sound of Music!

Tech Addicts
Sunday 27th December 2020
We're back again, so why not join us as Gareth and I have another punt at getting ourselves lost in the wonderful world of tech! Plenty of tech chat as always including an even better iPhone camera, leaking the OnePlus 9 family and Galaxy Chromebook Lite, a tiger swimming in a lake devouring YouTube Kids and we hark back to the Magical Music Centre!

Phones Show Chat
Sunday 27th December 2020
Steve and I are back with a mid yule-new year catchup during which we chat about all things mobile phone. More on the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, tinkering with Lineage, Tasker and Android Recovery like it's 2010 again!

Projector Room
Episode 78 - Grumpy Old Maggie
Wednesday 30th December 2020
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with our fortnightly chew on the cud of all things film, cinema and TV. From a rather blue Betty to fire in the sky at midnight and much between!

The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - Tech Addicts

The MeWe Community Groups (follow the links to join up)
Phones Show Chat & The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - PSC Photos - PSC Classifieds - Tech Addicts

The Team
Ted Salmon - Steve Litchfield - Aidan Bell - Gareth Myles - Allan Gildea

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

This cut-price mid-ranger pretending to be a flagship from Samsung is available in two flavours. Or three if you include the 4G Exynos version. Yes, a 5G SnapDragon unit or a 4G Exynos (or depending on your region) SnapDragon version. It feels like Samsung have raised to the challenge set down by the likes of Xiaomi and Oppo, hitting high specs but keeping the price down by shaving whiskers here and there. Is it any good?

The version we have here for review is the 5G SnapDragon one in blue. It's £699 SIM Free in the UK whilst the 4G version is £599. At the time of writing there's a £100 cash-back deal on the table from Samsung for either of these, so £499 and £599 respectively. For £50 more on both of these you can up the baseline 128GB storage to 256GB. It would seem that in the UK at least just now, direct from Samsung, if you want the SnapDragon chipset, you have to get the 5G version. But there are other outlets.

Anyway, on with the show and first physical impressions! Before you start, you might like to check out Steve Litchfield's video review in The Phones Show Episode 413 in which he puts this Samsung through its paces in the context of his December 2020 Top 5 Phones. The phone arrived in a simple box with charging brick, USB-A to USB-C cable, pokey-hole tool and no earphones or TPU case. Mean (on the case). In case you don't know, the 'FE' stands for Fan Edition, apparently. Which used to be applied to a phone back in the day with extra features on a phone release which fans would like - not a cheaper version like this of the S20, effectively an S20 Lite! But I guess the 'fans' might have simply been asking for less cost! Who knows.

One of the whiskers shaved has been the removal of a glass back and instead, plastic. Or glasstic as Samsung like to call it! They seem to think it's plastic pretending to be glass, but to me it seems more like plastic pretending to be aluminium. The cold touch is not there, but that's how it looks to me. Anyway, who cares? A TPU in place and every phone has a plastic back anyway! The frame is indeed aluminium which travels around the edges in a pleasing enough design arriving at the front, encasing the edges of a flat front panel. Another shave. But actually, there's a growing number of people (including myself) who are pretty fed up with curved displays anyway, so this shave they can have!

The phone is not as big as I feared it would be and sizes up closely in comparison with my Motorola One Zoom. It's not giant, like the 6.7/6.8" devices, but not dinky like a Pixel. It's thinner than the One Zoom but pretty much matches it otherwise. At 190g it's not the lightest, but for the size 'feels' light enough and has been certified IP6/8 for dust/water. The volume rocker and power buttons on the right side feel sturdy enough and a little 'clicky' in use. The left side is naked, up top is a SIM Card/microSD Tray and at the bottom, a speaker and USB-C data/charging port. The card tray on this unit is a Hybrid one which will take either 2 nanoSIM Cards or one, and a microSD.

On the back there's a big lump top-left (in portrait) acting as a camera island which sticks out a millimetre or so, but is flushed by the TPU I bought. The front of the phone is mostly glass screen with a small chin (good for swipes) and even smaller bezels left, right and top. Central and top is another speaker between the glass and the frame and just underneath it a nicely small selfie punch-hole.

The 6.5" Super AMOLED flat screen is, as you would expect, glorious to look at, bright, colourful, saturated and with manual overrides in Settings to adjust it however the user wants it to look. We've come to expect this with Samsung OLED screens and this is no exception. I did read in a spec-sheet somewhere that the brightness is around 400 nits but can go up to 800 in auto-brightness mode. Indoors, for me, it's perfectly good at 25% on the slider. There is another shaving here however, as this is a 1080p panel and not 1440p, though they have added a 120Hz refresh rate option (for those who can tell the difference). The ratio is 20:9 so you end up with about 400ppi. These shavings are insignificant for me at least - they've made the right choices.

Sticking with the screen for a moment, I should just mention that unlike some other flat-screened Samsung phones, they have included the Edge Lighting options here and they work very nicely. Completely customisable in settings it means that you can set the edges of the screen to play a merry dance with lighting when notifications come in, with what colours or theme you fancy applying. There's also Edge Panels to quick-access a huge bunch of apps and settings. This, along with the excellent similarly customisable Always on Display, means that the phone is available at all times for interaction with the user visually. Choice of clocks, colours, user-submitted Themes, calendar entries, battery information - it's all there and a delight to use.

In addition to this, I have the under-glass optical fingerprint scanner employed (which can be set to be always visible as a part of the AoD). This means that I can always see the target and full desk/table access to the device when I want to get in. I am finding it to be almost always reliable - just now and again it might miss for me, but second time is good. I'd go for 95% plus for first time. The registration is quick and easy, though it seems to be restricted to only three fingerprints instead of the 'standard' Android's 5. Supporting this entry is Face Unlock which is again, very quick (maybe a little too quick) to set up and register (though to be fair, tested with someone else's mug here, they don't get in). When it is looking for the face, there's a little lit animation around the selfie camera hole, then a swipe up and you're in. See *update, below for more on this.

It would be only fair to point out that at this point I'm approaching my so-called review from the angle of not wanting to use Samsung services (unless they are better than those supplied by Google, or that I actually would intend to use them because I prefer what they do over other apps/services which I'm used to). If you think that invalidates this as a 'proper' review, then do please move along and look at the thousand and one other appraisals which dig down into those areas.

*Update. During my time with the S20 FE it did receive Android 11 and One UI 3.0 (having already been on December 2020 Security). Well done Samsung. Only two months after Google released this for Pixel phones and evidence of their seriousness about prompt, regular and long-lasting OS and Security Updates. The changes from prior are mostly cosmetic, tweaks and improvements in the UI, most of which seem to be for the better. I'm going to link to an AndroidPolice Article here as they drill through the nitty-gritty of the changes. The big one for me will be coming with One UI 3.1 apparently, when Samsung are joining most others (including Xiaomi recently) offering the user the Google Feed/Discovery option to the left of the Home Screen instead of their own Samsung Daily aggregator or nothing. I have noticed a slight increase in speed when using the fingerprint scanner and a slight decrease in standby battery performance (which no doubt they will optimise in time).

Speaking of which, the phone has a 4,500mAh battery and before this update the performance was very good, even having to drive that amazing screen. I recorded 2 hours and 15 minutes on my 10% screen-on reading test and there's absolutely no problem getting to bedtime even after a heavy day of use. Light to moderate use and we're heading for two days. There's 25W charging out of the box with the charger, 15W Qi Charging and even a 4.5W Reverse Wireless Charging to charge depleted earphones or to help out a friend with a flat phone battery. That might seem a little light compared to others but on testing here it works perfectly well for those eventualities. I have no complaints about the battery or charging performance. Another (near) flagship box ticked.

As I said earlier, this review unit is the 5G version with a SnapDragon 865 chipset, but the 4G version is also available in some markets with an Exynos 990. As I have said before, maybe I don't push phones hard enough but when comparing these against each other in the past (which I was able to with the S10e and S10) I really saw no noticeable difference. I know that Samsung get some bad press for their Exynos chipsets but they're certainly sticking with it, having recently announced the 2100. On testing with car racing games here, there's never a jitter - smooth as silk. This unit has 8GB RAM and 128GB Storage but there is a 256/8 available as well as the 128/6. Check specs from retailers before buying. All this supported by a microSD Card slot - well done Samsung - and it's playing very nicely with my 512GB microSD. My SanDisk Extreme 2TB SSD plugged into the USB-C socket reads and writes more than fast enough for me (and against other tested phones) and HDMI-Out to send media to a TV or monitor by cable works perfectly.

DeX is also present and when I plugged the phone into my PC I was instantly invited to download and install the supporting Windows DeX software which was then available to control all aspects of the phone, pretty much. Apps in windows on the big screen, pass-through notifications and services, use the phone's screen as a track-pad if you like, all the bells and whistles we've come to expect with this clever stuff. Like Bixby and Exynos, they're sticking with this system and others are slowly following along with their own versions. Genuinely useful for those stuck in a hotel room and able to use a TV screen to get productive or enjoy media for leisure.

The software experience is a mixed bag. Great that Samsung now give the new user the option to not install a load of their apps by unticking boxes and great that Google have now placed even more of their basic apps into the Play Store (including even Phone, Calendar, Contacts, Clock) so people who, like me, are not interested in the Samsung versions can stick with the Vanilla ones. Bad that there remains some bloat - again, I don't get why they need to do a deal with FaceBook or LinkedIn. Surely people can go and install them if they want them. The list of stuff which are installed and you can't do anything but hide include AR Zone, Bixby, Calendar, Clock, Contacts, Galaxy Store, Gallery, Game Launcher, Messages, Phone and Smart Switch. I guess some people won't care if they use the Samsung versions of some/all of these - some may even prefer them, but as I said earlier, that's not how I'm approaching this. The apps can be hidden in the (forced to only scroll sideways) App Drawer or bundled off into a folder. What I will give them, is that they have cleaned up the 'nags' which used to blight the experience for those choosing not to use Samsung apps. In my time here, I've not seen a single one I don't think.

I give a pass to Samsung's Music and Video Apps, but that's probably for old-fashioned reasons - and that the Pixel ones are a bit rubbish! You know where you are with these and you have system-wide direct links to Dolby and a Lock Screen echo, for example. There's also a bunch of settings to play with in terms of playback and smart library management. Probably no better than installing VLC or the like, but I find them pleasing to use and good additions.

The One UI is generally pleasing to use with smart help throughout. The Settings take some getting used to when coming from Vanilla, but at least there's a good Search facility. The Notification area is clean and well arranged with loads of genuinely helpful additions including a Power-Off button in case you want to assign the physical one to something else. What Samsung also do very well is to pack the Settings full of useful additions, tools, optimisation features, tweaks to pretty much any setting you might want to change or check - and if you want to do something that it can't then Bixby Routines will fill the gap (in a Tasker type way). Bells and whistles throughout and tons of stuff to play with! Some of the stuff might not be arranged quite as I'd like it but you have to hand it to Samsung that the customisability is exhaustive with a plethora of options at every turn.

I decided to test the speakers' output with the Pixel 3 which I have here and I contend is probably pretty much up there with the best (laying aside specialist phones) and with 'proper' stereo. I say proper, because this Samsung like many, many other phones are not coming with two front-firing traditional stereo speakers but rather one bottom/down-firing and the other making use of the phone's telephone earpiece speaker. If you play some music and put the top speaker up to the ear it does sound tinny and rubbish. Try that with the Pixel 3 and you get the full left channel of the stereo. Having said that, these speakers are 'tuned by AKG' to counter these limitations and sure enough, they've done very well. Move the phone to 12/18" in front of the face and stereo effect can't be faulted. It sounds just the same as the 'proper' ones on the Pixel. Very impressive in audio and video with various 'surround' tests.

Having established that we're alright with that, to the volume and quality. In order to keep the playing field level I start by turning the Samsung's Dolby off. This done and the Pixel 3 just about wins it on quality, tone, richness, depth, whatever you want to call it - but the Samsung is louder. Maybe not surprising as it's physically bigger and the sound (presumably) has more space to move around the device. However, turn on the Dolby (using Auto, not Movie/Music/Voice) and the Samsung shifts up a gear in volume and quality leaving the Pixel in its wake. A nicer, richer, louder sound. The sound coming from both of these phones is fabulous, to be fair and I'm nit-picking of course. All but the serious audiophile would be more than pleased with the sound, loud enough to fill a lounge-sized room - perhaps not a noisy party though!

When that's needed, you can turn to bluetooth and grab a speaker or 12! Bluetooth 5.0 is on display here and the hook-up to equipment is quick and easy - pairing very fast and with the ability to hold onto a signal over good distances. Dual Audio enables connection to multiple devices, simply and quickly - works very well, sending the same sound out to multiple devices. There's no 3.5mm audio-out socket here sadly but the sound across bluetooth is very good indeed, 32-bit/384kHz audio Tuned by AKGas always depending on paired equipment. I have tried that with two or three dongles/adapters to 3.5mm I have here and the output depends on the electronics in the dongle/adapter so as expected, the best booming sound which blows my head off is the Razer Phone's dongle - but it's also really not half bad using a cheaper and presumably less able one. With all of these, turn on Dolby and the sound is enhanced in every way - at least to my ears it is.

Connectivity via the usual routes as tested here is excellent, though I don't have any 5G to check that. 4G cellular appears to be strong with voice calls and data in my neck of the woods as does GPS locking and tracking onto maps and weather apps etc. The WiFi hooks up to the two broadbands at my disposal just now cleanly and holds onto the connection well (as does it my MiFi). NFC is present and although I can't test Google (or Samsung) Pay just now because of lockdown, the pairing between devices is quick and reliable.

As usual, I'm going to refer you to Steve's appraisal of the camera options in this phone, where he assesses (in his video linked to above) the pros and cons of all things photographic here. But a quick run through the specs shows that we have a 
12MP f/1.8 (normal) shooter with OIS, an 8MP f/2.4 (telephoto) again with OIS offering 3x optical zoom, a 12MP f/2.2 123˚ (wide-angle), 4K@60fps gyro-EIS stabilised video recording and a 32MP f/2.2 Selfie, again with 4K@60fps, gyro-EIS stabilised video. I like very much the 30x zoom. It won't stand up to pixel-peeping but for the vast majority of people posting to social media, it will do absolutely fine (if you can hold it still enough) and the 3x optical zoom gives pretty near close-up shots. As with the rest of the phone the camera app is littered with options, clever AI stuff, Pro Mode, Night shot, fancy filters and super slo-mo. The world is your oyster in terms of having stuff to play with here - you won't get bored!

This is a super phone, no doubt about it. It feels like a flagship and is, really. Samsung have pitched the price absolutely right here. It has more capability of many phones costing more and certainly those from China challenging the sub-£400 range. There's very little to complain about and as long as the user is alright with the size of the phone and getting used to doing things the Samsung way, it will be a winner. If I was considering buying a phone for myself just now this would certainly be high up on my shortlist as, well, it just has everything. Oodles of capability, great fun to use and available in a bunch of colours. No longer do even the most demanding of users have to consider £1000+ flagships. Clever Samsung. Hope it pays off.

Friday 11 December 2020

Pixel 5 - More Features Dropping

I've been using the Pixel 5 as my main phone with my primary SIM Card in it now for the last couple of months so thought it might be time to reassess where I'm at with it, pros and cons and thoughts of it as a long-term investment for someone on a contract. Is there enough here to keep the user happy for two years or more, I wondered. The short answer is a positive one!

People like us who switch between phones to review them regularly are often accused of not paying attention to one for long enough to assess it properly. There may be some truth in that and we often turn to our online community members to feed back as they find aspects to report on with their loved devices as time goes on - and we're onto the next thing. I hope to be able to hang onto this one so that I can report back much more as we move forward with Google.

You know what you're getting with a Pixel to some degree. Firstly, and possibly most importantly, very prompt updates of the Android OS and Security Patches and a pure Vanilla Android experience (at least as Google intended it to be for Pixel users with their own additions). The same purity that iPhone users expect from Apple, knowing where you are, what works and (laying aside blips and experiments) as it should work. Users are also in at the nub-end with Google as they roll out new features and apps, giving the Pixel user a feeling of being a part of some sort of permanent Beta.

It is precisely because of the above that others can be unhappy. Many want the flavours of Android that their favourite manufacturer has applied over the base-line. Many, and with fair points, are able to enjoy different and in some cases, better hardware attributes such as Samsung with DeX and HDMI-Out, fancy Always on Display options, better speakers, different camera options and so forth. As always, users have a choice - which was always going to be as a direct result of Google enabling anyone who fancies it running with Android and doing what they like with it. In recent times, some of that has been locked down more (usually in the name of security) but certainly there is still huge scope for manufacturers to do their own thing.

Google made some different decisions in 2020 in terms of the direction of their hardware rollout, focusing on (in some respects) mid-range specs, pricing options and hardware elements. The boundary-pushing of the 2019 Pixel 4 range with Soli Radar and FaceID were shelved for now (maybe to make a reappearance sometime) and instead, a more pragmatic approach to three models. I have reviewed the £349 Pixel 4a and £499 Pixel 4a 5G and compared the £599 Pixel 5 with my Pixel 3 as well, the latter being my daily phone up until a couple of months ago.

I think that this has been a hit, providing something-for-many across three price-tiers and giving people a less expensive way into the Pixel line of phones. More people who can enjoy all the above, as well as Google's Feature-Drop every quarter giving them a look at what the latest features are and what's being worked on. As I said above, sometimes that may feel like a test-bed, but many of us enjoy that. The December 2020 Security Update came along with an interesting Feature Drop which included 
Adaptive Sound using the phone's microphones to assess the acoustics nearby and adjusting the output to make the most of the speakers, Adaptive Connectivity to save battery by automatically switching between 4G & 5G auto-decided on what you're needing at the time, Adaptive Charging which protects the health of the battery by deciding how much to charge, at what rate and when based on learned usage patterns, Hold for Me call-waiting (USA Only for now) which manages your place in a queue for you and lets you know when you're at the front and Extreme Battery Saver shutting stuff down to keep the phone alive as long as possible when battery is very low.

There's some 3D mapping stuff which improves GPS in certain cities (again USA only for now), the fabulous Now Playing can now export songs from the list to a YouTube Music playlist, Google Duo screen sharing is supposed to work but it may also be USA Only for now as we can't seem to get it to work in the UK - and a load of other stuff less visibly significant. Some of these features were already on the 5, 4a 5G and 4a, some are new to the Pixel 3 and 4 range as they filter down. It's all great fun to play with new toys and admirable that Google are enabling new features as far back down the line as they can, taking into account hardware limitations.

I continue to be very impressed with the battery life of the Pixel 5. It's the best performing battery on any Pixel yet - and not far off being the best performing battery of any phone yet! I've tested many, many phones over the years and laying aside specialist units (mainly from the far-east) and Moto Mods, it really is a leader. I continue to be very impressed with the speakers output, regardless of the under-glass unit making up the 'left' stereo channel. Held away from the head, yes alright, the stereo effect is minimal, but the overall sound output is more than good enough and not that far behind the more traditional speakers setup of the Pixel 3/4.

The capacitive rear-mounted fingerprint scanner continues to impress me and I will happily trade in the loss of access on desktop for the quick, easy and reliable 'old fashioned' method. Until under-glass scanners are significantly better than they are now, this remains a winner. Under the bonnet, the chipset may not be flagship level, but it seems fast enough to me in ongoing use. I never experience any slowdown over the time I have been using this phone and task switching feels delightful, supported by the 8GB RAM. The screen is bright and colourful, always-on-display great and for those who can see it, that 90Hz refresh rate. All come together to make this a great little phone. One could argue a phone-sized-phone kicking against the pricks of the giant phones trend which seems to be littering the phone world just now. It's beautifully made with that aluminium back and pebble-like curves but unlike many, retaining a flat screen. It has my vote!

I would still like a microSD Card slot personally, but I know that Google are trying to get us all to live online and in the cloud. I get that, but I'd still like it! Second best is the increase of the baseline models from 64GB storage to 128, so I guess that's something. The camera remains class leading (pretty much) because of the partnership in photography with smart software and results defy the specs of the hardware. Nobody can complain really except those who would rather have a telephoto than wide-angle. On the other hand, cropping in on images to attain closer views is handled so well in software that again, it's hard to complain.

It's an excellent phone and will continue to hold my SIM Card as long as I have it. It's not quite the perfect phone, but I doubt that we'll ever see that! It comes a very close second for me, topped off with Qi Charging with Reverse too and that excellent 2/3 day battery. I hope to be able to continue to report back on the evolution of the Pixel line as monthly updates and quarterly feature-drops roll out. I'll do that for as long as I am able and report back my findings at each stage along the way with Steve Litchfield in The Phones Show and our Phones Show Chat podcast.

For now, I'm probably recommending this phone as my absolute No.1 device certainly for 2020 and possibly, for me at least, of all time! With all that richness of updates from Google, three years of support, going back to my original question, there's no phone that I would rather recommend to anyone entering even a long phone contract.

Monday 7 December 2020

Sony XDR-S41D Portable DAB/DAB+ Radio

I got this cute little radio a couple of years back and forgot to share the news with you! It's been doing sterling service as a kitchen companion ever since and performing very well. I love this 'eggshell' kind of blue colour, though it is available in others.

The reason that it's a 'kitchen' radio is that in some ways it's pretty basic, mono, no control over tone, but actually the sound is pretty well tuned and top volume doesn't distort or lose the pleasant tone it has. It's not bass-rich, but this is not a party sound blaster! However, what it does, it does well.

The box provides a proprietary Sony charger with a surprisingly long cable, about 10 feet, but it certainly would have been better with a universal charging solution like USB-C (or even microUSB) like the Sony XDR-P1DBP which I reviewed in the summer of 2018. I guess that's about size - and the fact that the latter has a rechargeable battery on-board. This unit relies rather on the AC cable or alternatively 4 'AA' batteries, excellent for those who do wish to travel of course as they're available so widely. I have tested a fresh set of 'AA' alkaline batteries and on medium volume and DAB it went on for about 24 hours, so intermittent use a couple of hours a day and presumably two or three weeks. Perhaps a bit longer on FM.

The radio has DAB and DAB+ (for those locations which can use it) along with FM. The radio being tested in North Wales performs very well with signal on DAB (inside and out) and FM (stronger outside) but your mileage will vary on location. There are 5 Pre-Set buttons on the top panel which can be assigned to stations, 5 for DAB and 5 for FM. The buttons are 'clicky' and feel like good quality with shallow-travel. Next to these on the left is the power button, with similar quality. At the other end of the top plate is a volume control which spins (endlessly) and is shaped nicely in keeping with the curves of the design throughout.

The aerial extends telescopically out by about 2 feet and tucks away into a clip on the back when not needed. Depending on location, you may or may not need the aerial at all. It almost works here without but not quite! On the back is the sizeable battery cover which is on a pivot (so can't get lost unless you break it off). The unit is about a inch fat so feels pretty sturdy in terms of not toppling over.

On the right side is the port for the aforementioned charger next to a 3.5mm audio-out socket which produces stereo for headphones or earphones. Testing here with reference headphones the output is good enough for quality but not terribly loud. I'm guessing that most people using this facility are likely to be using it to listen to football commentary, not expecting to blow their ears off with their favourite album! There's no bluetooth in or out on offer here. Another good reason why it feels like - and is employed here as - a simple kitchen radio.

Exactly the same as the little brother, mentioned above, on the front there is an Auto Tune button, which scans for stations, large buttons for DAB/FM switching, Back (in Menus), a navigating/enter rocker and Menu. The Menu button moves you into all the Settings including Sleep Timer, Time setting, Station Information, Pre-sets etc. The LCD screen lights up for about 30 seconds after last input (or can be set to 'always on') and the screen echoes information about what you're listening to and whatever data the broadcast is carrying along with a battery-state icon. Clearly the same LCD panel and control-cluster. Works well.

So yes, a cute little kitchen radio, very capable sound output for that purpose, the usual Sony quality throughout, nice, thoughtful design and functional. You pay a bit more for Sony stuff, as we know. There are cheaper options out there of course, with similar functionality but I'm a sucker for Sony and think it is worth paying a bit extra. Recommended for use in the right place, for the right purpose. This is currently £58 at AmazonUK. Please use this link if you want to buy one as I get a few pennies from AmazonUK if you do so. Thanks.

Tuesday 1 December 2020

PodHub UK Podcasts for November 2020

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Tech Addicts
Sunday 1st November 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Do you think the bend and the fold is inevitable? How about wrap-around camera design? Maybe a fancy new Canon Monocular Camera is up your street? If not, just have a Golden Weekend! It's all here and much more - do join us!

Phones Show Chat
Tuesday 3rd November 2020
Steve and I take a further look at the Pixel 5 in the context of the 4a and 4a 5G whilst we continue to decide which fits the bill best!

Projector Room
Episode 74 - Scotland Forever
Wednesday 4th November 2020
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with another of our fortnightly looks into what we and you have been watching in film, cinema and TV. This time we see the shine in Shane and care for My Zoe - but more importantly mark the extraordinary career of Sean Connery.

The Phones Show
Wednesday 4th November 2020
A terrific new Sony which fixes all the 1 mark ii's issues. And it's 'cheaper' and a lot smaller in the hand. What's not to like? Join Steve as he takes a look at the latest Sony offering.

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 7th November 2020
Steve and I welcome back Tim Evans to chat about his devices of choice just now - from Folds to Apples and back, while we also consider the latest Sony and loads of other great stuff.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 8th November 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Fancy a BIG Moto? A vacuum cleaner for railway enthusiasts? How about getting Android (or Google) to Go? It's all here and much more - do join us!

Phones Show Chat
Tuesday 10th November 2020
Steve and I are back for a short midweek catch-up as we tidy up the loose ends with the new-improved Fairphone offering, look forward to a new-look OnePlus Nord and the bigger-and-better iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Whatever Works
Episode 124 - Whatever Works, Works!
Friday 13th November 2020
The first of our All New Whatever Works shows! So join Aidan and I as we warble on for an hour about Whatever Works and throw in something that may have been Better Before!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 14th November 2020
Do join Steve and I again as we welcome back wind-swept Torquay adventurer Dan Carter to catch up with where he is at - and what devices he's been reviewing, liking and not!

Tech Addicts
Sunday 15th November 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Want to know what might be coming from Sammy? Or if Honor really is for sale this time? Perhaps a Nokia feature phone? It's all here and much more - do join us!

Phones Show Chat
Tuesday 17th November 2020
Steve and I are back with a short'n'sweet midweek catchup during which we look at the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE specs, hear about how people are getting on the the new iPhones and consider how we all view photos differently.

Projector Room
Episode 75 - DNA Liberator
Wednesday 18th November 2020
Do join Gareth, Allan and I as we once again take a peek at all things film, cinema and TV. We seek the truth on DNA, freak out in castles and much more - from your team of Ladykillers!

The Phones Show
Join Steve as he takes a close look at the biggest, baddest, highest concentration of tech in an iPhone... ever. So how does it stack up across the board and would he recommend it? Tune in to find out.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 611 - Parallel Options
Saturday 21st November 2020
Michael Hell is guest of honour this week joining Steve and I as we dip, once again, into the depths of all things mobile phone. Xperia coverage draws to a close for now, huge iPhones remain centre-stage and we look forward to a Galaxy of options.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 22nd November 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Fancy a Chromebox or Samsung Smart Monitor to challenge Windows? Find out about the future of pocket computing with Oppo? Or settle for a Virginal rant about Stadia!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 612 - A POCO Sort of Day
Tuesday 24th November 2020
Steve and I are back again with a midweek catch-up as we look at the growing number of value (and well specified) phones coming out from China, whilst continuing to appreciate the flagships too, of course!

Whatever Works
Episode 125 - The Silicone Nipple
Friday 27th November 2020
Aidan and I are back with our fortnightly box of goodies as we dip into the potpourri of Whatever Works for us and you! From paper stools to rhubarb gin, bath mats, chairs and filters!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 28th November 2020
Steve and I are back again for our weekend show and this time we welcome back Juan Carlos Bagnell of SomeGadgetGuy fame! We chat about all sorts of mobile stuff and announce the winner of Photo of the Month in a show with flow!

Tech Addicts
Sunday 29th November 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Bargain Chinese phones, staggeringly expensive cameras pushing tech boundaries, leather laptops - or perhaps come play a Game, Boy!

The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - Tech Addicts - Better Before

The MeWe Community Groups (follow the links to join up)
Phones Show Chat & The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - PSC Photos - PSC Classifieds - Tech Addicts

The Team
Ted Salmon - Steve Litchfield - Aidan Bell - Dave Rich - Gareth Myles - Allan Gildea

Thursday 26 November 2020

Men & Chicken

Here's one from Denmark that's off-the-wall, starring the fabulous Mads Mikkelsen and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen from 2015. The original title was 
Mænd & høns and if you're going to give this dark comedy/mystery a go, do so with an open mind and expect mayhem!

Director/writer Anders Thomas Jensen has a long list of credits for projects he's been involved in over the years but I'm afraid to say that none have crossed my path until now. On the back of this, I shall explore more!

It's a bizarre tale about a bunch of brothers. Once we have the eerily reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest music out of the way, we join two of the brothers as their father dies in hospital. He leaves them a recording and tells them in it that he is not actually their father after all these years and gives the name of the father and suggests that each of them has a different mother, too! They are now on a quest to track this man down. One of these brothers is a smart academic type, the other, a less-than educated thug only interested is being in the presence of women. And when that happens, he has to sneak off to a convenient place to pull himself off! Hang on though - it's gets even more bizarre.

When they arrive on the island where their father lives, it turns out that there's another three men all claiming to also be sons of the father, guarding the asylum-in-disrepair in which they live, chaotically, it being full of farmyard animals of all shapes and sizes! When the 5 men finally get together and start to piece together the history of what has gone on and who's father is who, who's mother is who, we have started to live with them and spend a good time mainly enjoying their bizarre and quirky character traits.

They are not the only weirdo's on the island as a rich tapestry unfolds around them and various people with various parts of the story allow us to piece it together with them. What transpires is darkly comic and unsettling! I'll say no more. Just be sure to not assume that all is what it seems!

Mikkelsen (Hannibal, The Hunt, Arctic) is fabulous in the lead as he portrays one whacko behaviour after another and the other brothers are equally engaging, played by David Dencik (Chernobyl, Top of the Lake), Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Angels and Demons), Søren Malling The Killing) and Nicolas Bro (DNA, The Killing). I could have watched their mad antics for hours on end!

It's a brilliantly absurd film with deep ripples running though designed to make the viewer increasingly uneasy about what's to come. The discoveries which are made about their background do come along and as they do, it all fits together and makes sense. You'd be hard pushed to find a more strangely interesting tale. It's doing the rounds on Film4 just now. Go grab it!

Thursday 12 November 2020

Motorola One Action

Yes, a bit late to the party for this device which was released in autumn 2019 but I found out that these were still being sold direct from Lenovo for £80 off and £139 all-in. The Motorola One Octopus has many tentacles, most of which have been through the Salmagundi Filter at some point. At that price though, I couldn't resist! Want to know why?

Yes, you guessed it, AndroidOne! It was another of the (relatively) few devices made by Motorola which were a part of this fabulous scheme which guarantee users two OS and three years of Google Security Updates. I reviewed the Motorola One Vision back around then and was mightily impressed. The AndroidOne devices from the Motorola One Family that have come through my hands have been the Motorola One (revisited in 2020), One Vision, and now I'll see how the one I missed out on stacks up. There was also the non-One-family Moto G8 Pro which ran under AndroidOne which I also reviewed recently. That's the one with the stylus!

The Motorola One Action was aimed at a specific group of people on release. The Vision was for media-consumers, with that 21:9 screen for loads of Netflix watching on the move whereas the One Action they hoped would appeal to those who want to shoot action video. You know, skateboarders and snowboarders and surfer dudes! It has a wide-angle camera supporting this which was the first of the Motorola's to be placed deliberately sideways. If you hold the phone in portrait, it will shoot in landscape still. Motorola have since then ported this idea to various other phones, but this one started the trend. Compared to the Vision's 48MP main shooter and 25MP Selfie, the Action has a dumbed-down 12MP rear and Selfie - the emphasis is all about that wide-angle action-cam. And the price difference reflected this. We'll get to the camera later.

On release, the One Vision was £269 and the Action, £219. The bargain price I got it for now is a good saving, though I'm sure if you hunt around you could do as well elsewhere on this year-old phone, certainly picking one up second hand. It seems like the natural comparison to make here as I've already considered and reviewed the Vision.

The dimensions of the two phones are identical apart from the fatness, the Action being a few millimetres more - presumably for that 'action cam' - but it's also lighter by a few grams, perhaps because of the back being plastic and not like the Vision's glass. They both have plastic frames but only 'water repellent coating' and no IP-rating, which is a surprise for the Action particularly, aimed at outdoor use and adventure. What's possibly more interesting is that it's almost an identical size to the Sony Xperia 5 which, as we know, is also a 21:9 device and which I reviewed during 2020. The Sony is a different £699 flagship beast of course (with pretty much better everything inside and out) and is indeed slightly smaller in all directions than this Moto, but it's very similar in the hand. Makes you think though - £560 cheaper!

Back to the Moto phones and both Vision and Action have pretty much the same box contents, being an included TPU (well done Moto), power brick (though this one is 10W and the Vision's was 15W), papers, pokey-hole key and USB-A to USB-C cable. Touring the phone, there's a 3.5mm audio-out up top, volume & power on the right, speaker, USB-C port and microphone on the bottom, SIM Card Tray on the left, camera island, flash and capacitive fingerprint scanner on the back. All looking very much like the Vision. Only difference is that the back is plastic here and the Vision had glass (and the TPU covers it anyway), though both have the plastic frame. The phone feels solid and sturdy with some weight, not premium, but certainly not cheap'n'plasticy. There's an IPX2 rating for environment, so splash proof basically. You'd think they would have majored on this for the target adventurous folk.

The phones share the exact same 6.3" 21:9 1080p LCD front panel returning 432ppi with that over-sized selfie top-left in portrait. Because it is 21:9 it makes the 6.3" really more like 5.3", so actually feeling much more dinky than the figures suggest. The screen on 100% manual brightness is very good. Perfectly usable outdoors in sunlight, which there was here unusually today! Comparing with the Pixel 3's OLED panel there's really not much in it for brightness, but both of them seem brighter to my eyes than the iPhone SE (2020)'s LCD. The iPhone has a 'warm' cast whereas the Action has a blue one and the Pixel sits somewhere between. Colour can be shifted to 'saturated' in settings to make them 'pop' a bit more, apparent in primary hues more on this LCD. The brightness 'slider' seems to need to be up to about 60% for me for indoors use, which is certainly more than OLED screens and a bit more than the iPhone's. It's a very good screen which few would complain about.

As I fired the device up and got it going for the first time, I'd not realised that of course, it would still be on Android 9 (Pie) and yes, sure enough it was, with July 2019 Android Security Patches! I tried to quickly get Android 10 on-board but this little blighter was going to do all that at it's own pace! Through the months, one-by-one (presumably one security update hanging on changes from the last/next) until it got to November 2019, then along came Android 10. Hurrah! Again, slowly but surely, month-by-month it got as up-to-date as is reasonable for an AndroidOne device just now, October 2020. Wow! This is a 3-4hr long process! When it was all done, I executed a new factory reset for good measure.

This did start me thinking though about how long the phone had been sitting on a shelf, battery inactive. The battery had about 50% charge when I opened it. I checked on the box and the manufacture date was April 2020. So even though all that software was outdated by some months, the battery was only six months or so sitting. When I test the battery, we'll see how it performs against what I got from the Vision, which I got back then new, with little sit-time.

No time like the present as they say, so my first couple of tests on the battery are very good indeed. I've run my 10% screen-on test a couple of times now and have got results much better than the Vision, which was around 1hr 20mins. This Action is more like 1hr 40min. I have run this from 100% to 90% and also 50% to 40% and it remains consistent. I have no idea why the Action should do better than the Vision in this respect - I really was expecting the same result - although I do have thoughts coming along about Android 10.

The 10% screen-on test is not very scientific. The strength is that it's always me doing it and I do the same things during the time with the phone. Screen on, adaptive battery, adaptive brightness, indoors, reading social media, news feeds, scrolling, no video, no sound - just basic reading with the screen on. I mark the percentage shown at the start and finish, allow for variation within fractions of percentage points, then time when the 10% drop occurs. I do this from fully-charged, then repeat the test 50% to 40% and do this a few times during the first week of use as it gets used to my pattern of usage then take an average at the end. Not scientific, but consistent over hundreds of phones over the years.

The good news is that the battery is really very good for a seriously heavy day and beyond. We're talking 36hrs with 6-7hrs SoT between charges if pushed. Again, that feels like it is better than the Vision was - so maybe all these battery improvements are to do with Android 10 - I had sold the Vision on before it got updated. Anyway, the 3,500mAh battery clearly is a winner in this combination and even though the Action comes with a lesser charger in the box than the Vision (10W instead of 15W) this really represents no problem with charging up fairly quickly for real-world use - 5/7 hours of power from 15/20 minutes charge and full from flat in just over 2 hours. No wireless charging of course but I have a Qi Receiver plugged into the USB-C socket, pad under the TPU and wireless charging is working beautifully.

The use of Samsung's Exynos 9609 chipset was a surprise for me for the Vision, but I remember saying that it out-performed the similarly-priced and placed Samsung model of the time and presumed this to be because of all the Samsung software and back-action going on against the clean and stripped-down AndroidOne version of Android there. This seems to be just the same. It's operation is fast across anything I'm using it for, even resource-heavy car-racing games as tested here. Laying gaming aside though, there's not a jitter that I can see for normal everyday use in all other functions. Task-switching is good and fast with nothing dropping out the other end of the 4GB RAM that would worry me over time. Who needs 12GB RAM, eh!

The storage is the same as the Vision, being 128GB which is great when supported by microSD memory cards via the hybrid SIM slot. The SIM slot will either take 2 x SIM Cards or 1 x SIM and microSD. Copying data to the phone was relatively fast though of course nothing like the speed that the Sony Xperia 5ii demonstrated recently for me! But remember the price difference - especially with this special offer. Read/write times for external media is good tested here with the usual microSD Card adapter into the USB-C slot and also my Extreme 2TB SSD. Yes, it is faster on various flagship devices, but are we in such a hurry we can't wait - for the cost-saving? Last test is the HDMI-Out and not surprisingly, there's no support for this.

There's pretty much the same level of Moto extras on this phone as the Vision had, like the Moto Peek (but not Approach, rather lift/nudge to get the interactive dialogue), chop-chop for torch, twist-twist for camera, 3-finger screenshot - you know the form. The only bit missing that matters for me is the Approach really - as there's not even double-tap-to-wake, you do have to move the phone to see the time, date, battery % and Peek notification array. I guess that's not such a big deal for people who have the phone in their pocket - more so on a desk/table or stand.

The security aspects of the Moto suite include the face unlock which is quick to register and seems to work well - lifting the phone up from the table or from a pocket and looking at it gets the user straight in. No mucking about with sub-screens and lock-screens to swipe away - straight in. Great. Others could learn from that. Only thing to be said though is that if you're lifting it up anyway, your finger is round the back so you might as well use your finger to unlock! Which brings us to the rear-mounted capacitive fingerprint scanner. This works really well as you'd expect rather than under-glass arrangements. Only problem being that it has to be lifted up to use of course, so desk-use is out. Nudge and Peek or pattern I guess!

The speaker output is, much like the Vision, punching above its weight. Moto seem to use a better quality component than many out there, even if it is mono and singular. It may not be the loudest, but there's no complaints here about tinny top-ends. The tone is very pleasant and just enough bass so as not to complain. I'm guessing that it is the exact same setup as the Vision as we also have the 'minimalist' Moto Audio tuned by Dolby which is system-wide but is stuck on Smart (auto) for speaker use.

It's not until you plug in headphones to the 3.5mm audio-out socket that the other options open up - Music, Film and Custom - each with their own edit feature with manual adjustment of graphic equaliser sliders. The sound coming through headphones (tested here with AKG K701) is not very loud - I have it on full volume and it's just about fine for me - but it wouldn't have been when I was 16 years old and wanting to blast my ears! So an enhanced dongle would be a good idea for some folk. I personally think that most people would be satisfied though. 

And for those who are not, pairing up with Bluetooth headphones, as we've come to expect now, moves things to another level completely, depending on the quality of the connected equipment of course. Tests here transform the sound which is good enough for 57 year old me and more than good for 16 year old me! Bluetooth 5, pairs up quickly and holds a connection over a good distance - and through various walls as tested here. There's also a recording FM Radio which can be switched to speakers, headphones or Bluetooth output, channel favourites, sleep-timer and even hooks through to the Dolby from inside the app.

Talking of connectivity, I have taken a number of phone calls on the device and connection is solid over cellular, good sound each end as tested and strong signal even when tested here in previously tested dubious areas for dropout on Vodafone. NFC is present so Google Pay is a Go and although I have not been able to test that, others report it working well. Certainly the NFC functionality is working for quick device connections. Similarly the GPS - quick locks on Google Maps and reliable tracking as I move. Wifi connection seems good and strong too tested here on two household routers and two MiFi units. It seems that I rarely complain about any connectivity with phones these days. A few years ago, devices always seemed to have something not so good. I guess they're getting better at their game.

One of the few differences between the phones is the camera, as I have said. The Vision centred around a better 48MP Quad Bayer f1.7 shooter with OIS which actually turned out some half decent shots for the price-point whereas the Action's main camera is a 12MP f1.8 more usual and old-fashioned one. There's no OIS on the phone at all, though there is an electronic stabilisation function in the video camera, which seems to work to some degree. 

Both phones share a 5MP f2.2 depth sensor, but the difference comes with this 16MP f2.2 117-degree wide-angle video camera on the Action, designed for, well, action! It was the first Moto to dedicate a lens to this so that users could hold the phone in portrait (and not have to use two hands to hold it in landscape) but still shoot landscape video. So what you get on the screen is massive bars top and bottom with a slim landscape view of what's going on in front of the lens across the middle. Think YouTube video before you have turned your phone round into landscape and you're not far off. You can shoot this oddly-presented video at 4K@30fps or 60fps@1080p, so no records being broken there - particularly over a year later when even more boundaries are being pushed by other OEMs. There is now a button on-screen to switch the view back to full screen for those who want to shoot in landscape holding the phone in landscape, but by default it's the other way around.

Furthermore, this wide-angle lens can't be used to take photos - only video - which seems a bit odd to have not included. If the hardware is there to support wide-angle, why exclude it from the single-shot camera, I wonder. We've subsequently had this argument for other Moto phones which have adopted the same arrangement since the release of the Action and it is rather bizarre. However, the footage looks decent enough (to the untrained eye here) and I'm sure the adventurous mountaineer or sailor will appreciate the one-handed flexibility for their YouTube footage. 

Apart from that, the camera is very ordinary, shots taken with the main lens look good enough to me - not special, there's no telephoto so any zooming is digital. There's a Manual Mode to play with all the usual settings, which works rather well and the usual array of Moto add-ons in the camera app such as Spot Colour, Cutout, Portrait, Slow Mo, Timelapse, spirit-level, grid and Google Lens baked-in. There's no Night Mode, so you're on your own with that - and low-light shots are far from special. Lastly there's a 12MP f2 Selfie, whereas on the Vision there was a 25MP f2 one - only short-term problem being the big hole which is cut into the screen to accommodate it. It's quite hard to imagine what was behind the decisions about what to put in which, and why, when they share so much common ground.

This is an excellent phone for the money I paid now. Those who are going to be alright with the 21:9 aspect of the screen, being very tall, will get a bargain here. It's very comfortable in the hand, my finger and thumb meet well around the phone's waist, but yes, one-handed use means a stretch up to the top. Great for long scrolling through news and social media posts for those who prioritise that.

The action camera is well designed and looks like great fun for the right crowd, but even laying that aside, this is a very capable smartphone for lots more people than them. The engine room ensures a smooth experience, the screen is very good indeed once you stop seeing the big Selfie Hole and I don't think you can argue with the fabulous AndroidOne implementation of Android and added Moto bolt-ons. This one is coloured Denim Blue, but on release there was also Aqua Teal and Pearl White. It's a well-rounded package, even if you ignore the Action Cam thing and at this price shouldn't be missed! Check if you're too late here!

Abigail (2024)

A bunch of lowly hoods are brought together in the typical nobody-knows-each-other style, not supposedly sharing anything about themselves, ...