Thursday, 15 April 2021

The Terror (Series 1)

Just come to the end of this, this week and thoroughly recommend a watch for those who haven't skipped ahead on the iPlayer and gorged themselves on it weeks ago!

Apparently based on some truth but then bent out of shape by Dan Simmons in his 2007 novel of the same name. Fictionalised and dramatised - but to good effect. It's grizzly in places, warm in others, harsh in most and an eye-opener as to what on earth explorers were up to in the mid 1800's.

Two ships sail off to the Arctic to open up the North Passage for easier trade links with the far-east. But they come a cropper as they get stuck in the ice. For three years. To make matters worse, as they run out of supplies they realise that the canned food they have for stock has been canned badly, resulting in them all going loony tunes! Oh dear, what are they going to eat when they have nothing else? You can imagine.

Hang on a minute, there's also some sort of creature stalking them too! Throw a feisty mutineer into the mix questioning the authority of the leadership and it makes for a tasty tale!

Jared Harris is excellent as Captain Francis Crozier, in amongst a star cast all hoping to survive the ordeal and to the end of the first series! Adam Nagaitis plays the mutineer with gusto, clearly having great fun in the role. He and Harris also teamed up in the excellent 2019 outing Chernobyl.

It's really well paced, atmospheric, insightful and the time watching it simply flies. Really well recommended. Still on the iPlayer in the UK for a while. Ten episodes of nearly an hour each.

Apparently the second series, which we haven't had over here yet, is a different tale altogether about an American-run Japanese internment camp during World War II with George Takei in a star (trek) role. I shall look out for it.

The Human Centipede Trilogy

Continuing with my skin-thickening my next stop was this bizarre pick! Warnings ahoy for all sorts of violence, nudity, sex, madness, depravity and gory nastiness. As we used to say, a Video Nasty!

The first one I found to be darkly comic, but more comic than anything else. Mad German doctor decides to kidnap three people at random and turn them into a, you guessed it, human centipede. I'll leave you to imagine how that worked and what depravity was required to get there! But it was comic in The Man With Two Brains type way. So absurd that you just end up laughing at what is going on! The actor playing the doctor is Dieter Laser who executes it deliciously looking the part perfectly!

The second one is probably the best as we follow a fan of the first film trying to take the idea further and make a human centipede with a chain of people, so many more than the three. This one is shot in black and white and very stylish, through the gore and violence, in a David Lynch type way. The mad fan is an under-trodden car park attendant abused by his mother (think Psychoville).

He exercised his power over others by re-enacting the bones of the film he loved so much bumping people off left, right and centre in the process. Leaves very little to the imagination and has to be seen to be believed. The fan is played by Laurence R. Harvey kitted out with wild eyes and does it scarily.

The third one really is utter nonsense and rubbish as Laurence R. Harvey and Dieter Laser are thrown into a situation in an American prison where one is the warden and the other his accountant. Laser is off his trolley again and hatches a plan to make the longest human centipede ever with all the prison inmates. And even has a go at a human caterpillar! Chaos and madness ensue. This really is the weakest of the three films and is all just rubbish!

Tom Six is behind all this mayhem and even appears in the third film as himself as the lines of reality intersperse with filmmaking and fandom moving forward. It's all absolutely chaotic, mad and daft - leaving you wondering why on earth anyone would make such nonsense. Unbelievable - the most bizarre thing I have ever seen.

Too Close

This ITV Drama has just aired - the three episode mini-series ending tonight. It really was a quite terrific drama excellently acted by the two leads, Emily Watson and Denise Gough.

It's a sad and insightful story about the two women, one a psychiatrist treating the other as she tries to unpick the background as to why she ended up driving her car through a bridge barrier and into a river whilst her daughter and friend's daughter were strapped in too.

The tale is told and story unfolded from her room at the facility and via much flashback. What becomes clear is that Watson's psychiatrist character has her own background which is being drawn out by having to go about helping her patient.

Both of them have guilty feelings based on their own backgrounds with harrowing grief alongside. There's more to tell as we go along about mental ill-health and society's monitorisation of people's medication, treatment and regimes. If we're going to be picky, I guess we could argue that the psychiatrist was probably not in any fit state to take the case on, given her baggage but I overlooked that.

It's very well paced, produced and acted by the whole cast. I was drawn to it because of knowing Emily Watson's body of work and this is a fine addition. I guess that it will be on the ITV Player for a while. Recommended.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

PodHub UK Podcasts for March 2021

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


Whatever Works
Episode 132 - A Wee Washing Up Bowl
Friday 5th March
Aidan and I are back with another fun-filled hour of brain-noodling as we chat about Whatever Works for us and you! This time we are transparent about urinals, lead the charge with LEDs and make some smashing bread and coffee again! But don't worry - no sign of eggs!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 6th March
Steve and I warmly welcome back Mike Warner to natter about all things mobile phone this week as we catch up with his latest delve under the bonnet.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 7th March
Gareth and I are back this week with another bunch of tech stuff to amuse and entertain. Hopefully! Tons of stuff covered as we break the 2 hour barrier for real this time. Woops! Interesting Apps, free stuff to use, bag a bargain and there's even a robot for your toilet!

Projector Room
Episode 83 - Goliath vs Llamageddon
Wednesday 10th March
Gareth, Allan Gildea and I are back again with our fortnightly roundup of stuff we've been tuning into in film, cinema and TV. Plenty of goodies this time again including an experimental Llamageddon Amazon Prime Watch Party, which you can hear our commentary of, while you watch, if you really want to(!) by grabbling the audio file from the show notes - all good fun, so why not!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 629 - Magic and Doze
Saturday 13th March
Steve and I welcome back Malcolm Bryant this week as he gives us a masterclass in Android's Doze and related, keeping many of us from getting timely notifications. All the usual goodies as well of course, plenty of topics and me living on the Edge!

Tech Addicts
Sunday 14th March
Garethand I are back again with our weekly round-up of tech stuff that's caught our eye. Why not join us as we chew it over! Can you Find the right X3 for you? Afford (or want) a very expensive CD Player? How about a retro typewriter keyboard? If all else fails you can Go 2 the action or play Stadia on your XBox!

The Phones Show
Tuesday 16th March
Join Steve as he muses on yesterday's phones, today's phones and explores how to appreciate the true value in the smartphone you are using - and why you really probably don't need that shiny new one!

Whatever Works
Episode 133 - The River Rat
Friday 19th March
Gareth joins Aidan and I this time as we natter for a while about stuff that works for us and you! From rat traps to turbines, ketchup to drones and socks to chains - do tune in and help us decide what BFS means!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 630 - It's All About Feel
Saturday 20th March
James Honeyball is guest of honour this week as Steve and I find out where he's up to with mobile, what devices he's been using and get his take on various topics.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 21st March
Gareth and I are back with another weekly roundup of what's caught our eyes in the tech world. This time we consider massive sensors in phone cameras, massive live Mario figures and massive skybrators! Or how about miniscule Zenfones, bluetooth speakers and Raspberry Pi enclosures? It's all here - and more!

Projector Room
Episode 84 - Rafifi Graffiti
Wednesday 24th March
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with another catch-up on what we, and you, have been consuming in the last fortnight in cinema, in film and TV. American Graffiti was a big one this time with sprinklings of Happy Days and Grease! Loads more of course too.

Chewing Gum for the Ears
Thursday 25th March
Steve and I take a look at the ups and downs of the sadly short life of Mick Ronson, his Bowie/Hunter collaborations, solo work and more. "The Spider with the Platinum Hair".

Phones Show Chat
Episode 631 - The Search Goes On
Saturday 27th March
Steve and I are back with another - our 631st in fact! This time we welcome back Mark Swidler from the good ol' USofA to chat about where he's got to in his mobile world. S59, F3, X3, Mi11, 1+9, G100 and 5ii - the discussion list goes on until we're solar-powered up!

Tech Addicts
Sunday 28th March
Gareth Myles and I are back with another tech natter as we catch up again this week. All sorts of goodies from Poco, Sony, Samsung, Instagram Kids and top it all off a right old Nerdgasm!

The Phones Show
Episode 418 - Xiaomi Mi 11 Review
Tuesday 30th March
Join Steve as he puts this very capable Xiaomi through the review process along with an overview of the range, including the Mi 11 Ultra.


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

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Violation

Blimey! Hold onto your hats here for this Canadian arthouse, horror, thriller of a film! It's a film about two sisters who live each side of The Pond. One visits the other with her husband and spends time with her sister and her husband in a very remote location where nobody can hear anyone scream!

Feelings of jealousy arise from childhood days, some in flashback, then following an incident with her sister's husband, first sister (the fruitloop) has the perfect opportunity to exact revenge. This is not for the lily-livered as there's a lot of gruesome violence and graphic nudity. I had to look away at one point - think Shallow Grave mixed with Dahmer!

I think I'll now leave it to those who can tune into the Shudder channel to give it a go if I've not put you off! There's an annoying amount of handheld camera in use as the clear low-budget masquerades as arthouse with a great deal of attempts at artistic imagery and timeline jumping, some of which lands well, much not. It takes a long time to get going and for anything to happen but when it happens, it happens!

Directed, written by and starring Madeleine Sims-Fewer alongside Dusty Mancinelli it also features Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe and Obi Abili making up the foursome. The actors seem to have a background in lots of TV work and short films but certainly the two sisters, Sims-Fewer and Maguire play it very well and convincingly.

This is something very different indeed, not horror in the spook sense, but horrific in terms of what people can do to others when driven so strongly to revenge. Or maybe real people can't! (You can get to the Shudder channel via subscription at AmazonUK or at shudder dot com.) You have been warned!

The Shape of Water

We know what we're going to get with Guillermo del Toro of course and this 2017 dark fantasy feel-good is no exception. I'm sure we've covered it on the show at some point in the past but I hadn't seen it until now, as it does the rounds on Film4 in the UK.

Sally Hawkins plays Elisa, a cleaner at some sort of research facility in 1960s America who doesn't appear to be able to speak. The facility acquires some sort of amphibious being, shaped very much like a human, and are trying to use it for the benefit of the USA over Russia in the space-race.

There's double-agents and nasty people left, right and centre, including the really nasty-looking head of security played by Michael Shannon who seems to be hell-bent on abusing the creature with a cattle-prod, especially after it injures him. He plays Mr Nasty excellently and you really want him to get his comeuppance!

Elisa's cleaning buddy Zelda, played by Octavia Spencer, is delightful in her role too adding some comic turns as the only person at work who seems to be able to 'sign' with Elisa. The pair are very funny together.

Anyway, in a most unlikely sympathetic chain of events Elisa forms a bond with the creature and ends up trying to help him to escape his likely path if he remains where he is. The film then turns into a rescue attempt whilst most of the other players try to stop it.

All of the players do great jobs and yes, it's a bit daft and silly, but in an almost 'Amelie' type way, mixed with delicious works of Tim Burton! Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg make up the main parts from there and do so very well.

It's a dark but comic outing with del Toro pulling no punches with a bit of sex and violence here and there. I have read a good number of negative reviews about this but I really enjoyed it. Sally Hawkins carries it off in the lead role with great command and it's well worth a watch if you haven't been late to the party like me!

Amanda

Here's another one that the French seem to just nail, more times than not. A warm drama about family, family responsibility and the power of blood being thicker than water.

David's sister is killed in a terrorist attack in Paris and leaves her 7 year-old daughter in the lurch. David is close to his sister and her daughter so is the natural choice as Guardian.

But he has a life too, a new relationship blooming and grandparents/in-laws to deal with and take into account. Amanda is the little girl, played by the 10 year old (at the time) Isaure Multrier. She seems to leap between acting really well in the role at certain times, but becomes wooden, demonstrating inexperience and youth at others. I hope she continues as she's a charming and pretty girl in an ordinary type of way.

Directed by the similarly not-too-experienced Mikhaël Hers, the photography and command of scene is thoughtfully executed, not afraid to long-linger to capture a mood where appropriate to do so. Much silence is adopted in support rather than sloppy music!

Vincent Lacoste plays David in the other lead role and pulls it off beautifully. Young and spritely, but inexperienced in the ways of the world, having to face a real grown-up dilemma and bunch of choices. He does this well, throughout.

There are some threads left open at the end which I saw as significant in terms of 'life being like that'. The two main players watch tennis and during the game they both came to the realisation that life goes on, there may be turning points, fun and sadness along the way, but we just have to get on with it.

A real gentle drama with some funny bits thrown in and love present - and in the making - but mostly it's about family ties and bonding. Well worth a look as it does the rounds on Film4 in the UK.

Ballon (Balloon)

East Germany, 1979. After initially failing to flee from the East to the West in a self-built hot-air balloon, two families struggle to make a second attempt, while the East German State Police are chasing them. IMDB

I just watched this having recorded it on BBC4 a few weeks back, will be on the iPlayer for months to come.


Excellent 2018 film of this true story well told with edge-of-the-seat drama. Not sure if it has been drama'd up from the truth but it made a good film.


At the end there are lots of photos of the people and gear etc. which was clearly genuine - and then links to the falling of The Wall a decade later.


German with subtitles, but many parts of it are without dialogue. Well worth a watch - well acted and nicely shot.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Motorola Edge and Edge+

It's taken an awful long time to get here, but ten months on I have not just one Motorola Edge in my hands, but two! No prizes for guessing the reason - yes, money! The Motorola Edge started out at £549 and the Edge+ an incredible £1,049! Up with the Big Boys, then, I'm expecting the Edge+ to be something special indeed and the Edge leading the mid-tier pack. Let's see how they shape up, almost a year later.

I'll just pause to explain how I ended up with one of each all of a sudden. Last week (as I type) Motorola UK were making available the Edge via their education outlet to those who could access that route and a number of people got a great deal on that. One of the Phones Show Chat MeWe Group members Femi Shoyemi kindly sent it over for me to review. The one I'd always wanted though was the Edge+ and simultaneously the Lenovo website were knocking these out at £599 with a further Flash Sale £60 making it £539. Amazingly less than half the release price. I was weak!

So yes, two Edge phones in-hand and a perfect opportunity to compare them side-by-side. The Edge+ was not formally released in Europe back in May 2020, just the USA (much like the Z4 previously). Thanks Moto for not giving us the flagship until a year later! Anyway, enough whining and on with the show!

The box contents of the Edge include a tightly-fitting smoked TPU case and the Plus, a clear one - both of which scarily leave the 'edges' exposed. This is a big one which I'll come back to. There's the usual bunch of stuff included like pokey-tool, 3-pin charger (18W/15W), USB-A to USB-C cable, papers and cards but also a pair of earphones. Now, they don't suit me as they are drive-into-ear-canal ones but I do acknowledge that I'm in the minority here. I won't get those out of the Edge box as it is someone else's phone after all, but I will be able to test both phones using the pair from the Plus version.

Both devices have a sturdy
aluminium framed body, though the Plus does have a glass back rather than the Edge's plastic. No big deal as it looks pretty much like glass (especially through a case) and the same "water repellent coating" which apparently means that they've just skimped on the certification. Maybe that should have been a differentiator for the much more expensive model, for them to have grabbed that ticket.

There are some differences physically aside from that back, one of which being that the 3.5mm audio-out socket is up the top on the Plus and down the bottom on the Edge. In a similar switch, the SIM Card Tray is down the bottom on the Plus and top on the Edge. I can only imagine that this was because more space was needed up top for the electronics to read the Edge's microSD Card which forms a part of the tray's facility (Dual SIM or Single SIM and microSD) and which the Plus does not have - just a simple smaller (single) nanoSIM Card on the tray. The top and bottom of the Edge is also flat which just about allows you to stand the phone on its top or bottom, but it's a dodgy thing to do and I could see it falling with the slightest nudge! The Plus has a 'concave' edging top and bottom and because the phone is slightly fatter it does stand more confidently like that. Not sure I'd trust it still!

So yes, the Plus is fatter. Slightly. There's not much in it but presumably this has been done to accommodate the bigger battery, Qi charging coil and camera module which I'll come to later. The Plus is also heavier at 203g over the Edge's 188g but in the hand they really don't feel much different in that respect. What you might notice, however, is that both phones 'rock' slightly on a flat surface with their camera islands sticking out a tad, TPU case on or off. The Edge less so, but the Plus significantly because of that bigger, better camera cluster.

Otherwise, physically the two look very similar in many respects. On the right is a knurled power button sitting under a volume rocker towards to top but, because the screen curves round so far, they have been pushed backwards - towards the rear. Which is a bit odd as the hand expects to find those buttons centrally of course. Muscle memory time. Down the bottom we have the 'right' stereo speaker, USB-C data/charging alongside the aforementioned SIM Card Tray (Edge+) but 3.5mm Audio-Our socket on the Edge. On the left there is nothing and up top, the Edge has that SIM Card/microSD tray and Edge+ 3.5mm Audio-Out. Round the back they look very similar except for the camera islands. This stands out more on the Edge+ than Edge but otherwise arranged similarly, top-left in portrait.

The Edge phones are all about the screen, the
Endless Edge as Moto call it, that falls away left and right on both phones right around the edge. Just like the Nokia 8 Sirocco and earlier Samsung models. While others have now largely given up on this idea and gone back to flat(ter), Moto are either behind the trend with development times or they're just going their own way with it. Many have criticised the feature but actually, much like with the Sirocco, I love it! I also love flat screens. It's just different and a different experience. Nobody can deny that it looks really stylish, classy and premium. It does! I had dubbed my Sirocco my Lladró Phone - and this is much the same - the beautifully smooth edges of a fine porcelain piece. And the rest of the build around these edges fits in nicely with the same vision.

The content which 'falls away' round the edges, unlike the Sirocco, can be pulled back to the flat part of the front of the screen by smart double-taps on the edges, thus temporarily making the screen a kind-of 21:9 instead of the 19.5:9 when edges are included. There are some apps that this can't be executed within - including the launcher pages, but then the launcher pages are laid out in such a way as to not have icons falling over the edges, only maybe a character of the end of a long'ish label under an icon. You can also, should you wish, permanently turn off the edges in which case they are never used by any app (where the control is possible). Text is constrained in the Google Feed too, with only graphics really being 'wider'. I really am OK with this and think it works very nicely and retains that premium feel.

Talking of that front panel on the Edge, it's a Super AMOLED one measuring 6.7" - which sounds big, but that's 6.7" if it had been laid down, edges 'flattened out'. The 'real' measurement, say when in 21:9 mode is more like 6.3". So yes, tall in the hand but good in the hand, in the same way the Sony Xperia 5 series feels. I can get my finger and thumb round the 'waist' even with the supplied TPU in place. It would be lovely to use these phone with no case, but it would break! Even with the supplied case on, the edges are really vulnerable. The edges need to be available to touch because they are a part of the experience and beauty of the phone, so the payoff is that yes, be very, very careful, get insurance or put the phone in a 'pouch'!

Anyway, the Gorilla Glass 5 protected panel on both phones is probably manufactured by Samsung, LG or BOE (I can't quite pin this down from the data available), which means deep blacks and popping colours, saturated, colourful and bright. It's when you see screens like these that you realise that OLED is just so much nicer than LCD. The colours and brightness can be adjusted of course but not as exhaustively as some others with colour temperature adjustments and so forth. But it's really not needed. Motorola claim that the screen can produce a billion shades of colour! The brightness is just fine outdoors to see what you're doing and indoors can be wound right down. There's a single Selfie camera hole top-left at the start of the Status Bar, but it really isn't very noticeable - at least to me!

It's a 1080p panel returning 385ppi which seems to be set on a 90Hz refresh-rate for the Edge as I can't find any controls to change that to 60Hz or make it auto-controlled (apparently this used to be present on the Edge but Motorola took it away in an update in late 2020) but is available to adjust on the Edge+ between 90/60. Odd. Either way, that's fine - and possibly a good compromise between the basic and ludicrously high values.

Moto have also made available some other functionality for the edges, including notification/calls/alerts lighting, which can be seen even when the phone is screen-down (or even set for only when screen-down) and providing a marker for the reverse wireless charging location on the Plus. There's also a charging edge-light which shows briefly when you first start charging, which is very pretty - or you can turn all of this off if you prefer in Settings. An Edge Touch feature is also included which provides a panel of (6 assignable) shortcuts to apps, tools or contacts. The same as we now see from many Android phone manufacturers. The Edge Touch is also smart in that it can be double-tapped to turn the edge on/off, as I said earlier, swipe-in for that panel, swipe-up for Recents and swipe-down for the Notification shade (like you can do on some capacitive fingerprint scanners). This functionality is genuinely useful and the trigger 'bar' can be place anywhere you like to fit your hand size and where your controlling finger falls, made dark or light and even offers opacity and vibration feedback on use. Nice stuff.

Then we have the Gaming Toolkit to make use of those edges which by choice can drop down the main content to the screen and give the gamer left and right trigger buttons on the top edge for index fingers, gaming in landscape, assigned on a game-by-game basis for functionality. Gamers seems to be typically using them for right for 'fire' and left for 'aim' in a first-person shooter, for example. There's a 'L' and 'R' circle, greyed-out, which you basically just 'sit' over an on-screen 'button' and the shoulder triggers then execute that command by auto-pressing that part of the screen remotely from the shoulder. Not terribly smart, but then I guess every game would need to be deep-coded for this to work better. Don't know. I'm no gamer but if I was, no doubt I would make it work for me. Then there's the usual array of Gaming DND functions and exclusions for disruption. So anyway, another use for that edge if wanted.

Motorola remain one of my favourite phone manufacturers for the stuff they add over the top of Android, being useful but not feeling like bloat. Particularly with their Peek/Approach version of AoD. Once again, they excel here with those functions working beautifully as you move your hand over the screen, popping up a sliding notification with 'docks' to slide it to, depending on how you want to deal with it. Dismiss, read, execute some appropriate functionality or just leave until later with a summary of the data in the top half of the screen while you long-press the item while you decide. True, it's not a 'real' AoD but the way in which it works more than makes up for it not actually being on all the time. Fiendish.

The latest version of Moto's front-end also allows some customisation of colours, fonts and icon shapes which they (and Google) call Styles, layout array for icons on the home screens and a bunch of wallpaper options. You can also choose which fingerprint animation pops up when you go to unlock the screen by that method. There are three options, all having their charms! 
Talking of the fingerprint scanner, this Moto is supplied with an under-glass optical one which is not as fast as a physical capacitive one but it does the job very well. Those who are picky about the slight delay will do well to use the Face Unlock which, along with the fingerprint scanner is quick and easy to register and reliable in use. There's also a 'screen on when you look at it' setting which works well when sat in a cradle on desk or in car.

Then we have the ever-present Moto Actions - chop-chop for torch, twist-twist for camera, 3-finger screenshot from anywhere lift to unlock and swipe-to-split, which was a new one on me. If you swipe your finger quickly left and right across the screen the system will offer you a quick route to push the currently-in-foreground app to the top and allow you to put another one in below. Seems to work well enough (with supported apps) for those who need to multi-task every waking hour! And that's about it. No bloat (unless you got the Verizon USA version of the Plus) and a clean near-Vanilla version of Android.

Yes, a near-Vanilla version of Android which offers a near-standard Notifications panel with adjustments and links, choices and shortcuts, a homescreen which allows for almost limitless customisation - even more so than a Pixel which locks-in the At A Glance and Search Widgets and an App Drawer vertical scrolling popping up with a swipe. Gesture navigation controls or three buttons legacy version, Google Feed to the left, drag-down for notifications (as well as the aforementioned edge control) and the standard method of invoking the Google Assistant via corners. Just lovely. Both phones have Android 10 and a guarantee of Android 11 (at least) and as I write in March 2021, both have February Google Security Patches.

The software on the two phones is near identical and only changes where some element of the hardware differs - so not very often. The Settings pages are all-but the same, though one where they are clearly not is the Storage. The Edge has a microSD Card, as I said above, and 128GB of UFS2.1 storage whereas the Edge+ has no microSD Card but 256GB of UFS3.0 storage. I guess for most people they won't care either way especially as media can so readily be played via plug-in storage in the USB-C port. One of the differences is also that the Edge+ supports HDMI-Out and the Edge does not. This means that the Edge+ laid on a Qi charging pad (or well charged) could be used as a powered media server for a TV, for example, but the Edge not so (at least by cable). I would always prefer to have microSD of course but to be fair I've now been living with a 128GB Pixel for most of the last 6 months and haven't needed it once.

Powering the Edge is a Snapdragon 765G chipset but the Edge+ steps this up to a Snapdragon 865. To be honest, I can't tell the difference in normal day-to-day tasks. I have tried running car-racing games on both and they seem to do the job as well as each other. I have tried to see if moving files around, copying data back and forward makes any difference, but I can't really see it. Makes you wonder what all this extra beef is for really. Same is true of the 12GB RAM coming as standard on the Edge+ over the 6GB of the Edge (or even 4GB in the USA version). Switching between tasks, running apps, observing how long they stay open and background tolerance for shutting down - yes OK, technically there may be a difference when you look back over a number of days but as apps open very quickly anyway, the average user really isn't going to notice. So yes, nice to have the power under the bonnet, but again, it makes you wonder. For those who think it matters, I ran the GeekBench 5 Test on both phones and the Edge had an overall score of 2488 and Edge+ 4273.

The two phones have different size batteries, as I said earlier so interesting to see what difference that makes, given all the previous about chipsets and RAM to take into account. I have been testing the two over the last week and quite honestly there isn't much between them. Edge is 4,500mAh and Edge+ 5,000mAh. Maybe the 500mAh more of the Edge+ is used up by the more powerful chipset and RAM to just about keep them even. The bottom line is that the Edge+ is a bit better but not by much. Both phones' batteries are excellent in everyday use. My usual 10% Reading Test returned just under 2 hours with the Edge and just over 2 hours on the Edge+. The Average Use for Me test returned for the Edge about 50-60 hours between charges with 5-7 hours screen-on-time and the Edge+ 60-70 hours between charges with 6-9 hours SoT. So, both excellent however you want to view it but the Edge+ does indeed win out. A fabulous performance. Usual test conditions apply as for all my other phones reviewed in my blog, so as close to a level playing field as I can reasonably get.

The Edge+ however offers Qi Wireless Charging, which is a great bonus - and it works perfectly on a number of devices tested here. It's very forgiving of position which presumably means that it has a big coil in the back. It charges up at 18W (with the right charger) and even offers reverse-charging (power-sharing) at 5W. This means that you can charge another wireless-enabled device from the back of this one. This feature is becoming quite common now, but good to see Moto keeping up. The Edge+ comes with an 18W charger in the box to fuel up quickly when needed. There's no Qi Wireless charging on the Edge so just the 15W charger in the box, but plenty fast enough.

I have never used 5G Connectivity and can't get it where I live, but both of these phones have 5G capability for those more fortunate than me. I still maintain that 4G is good and fast enough for pretty much everything an individual might need to do with a phone, but accept that a family sharing a signal would make a difference. Anyway, on 4G both phones hold on well to voice and data. I have had conversations with people on both and reception is good, lock is good and break-up non-existent. The Edge+ is ahead of the Edge with mmWave 6 capability, not that here in the UK it's of much use! The Edge+ also has an advantage with Dual-band A-GPS which apparently means that locks onto satellites will be faster and more accurate, so to within a foot rather than a road's width. Could be critical, I guess, for indoor tracking though it ain't half bad as it is anyway! WiFi 6 is also present on the Edge+ but not on the Edge. Something else I have never used, but understand that when available speeds can reach 2-3 times faster for data exchange.  I haven't tested NFC on either phone in a shop with Google Pay due to the pandemic, but the technology seems to work fine as it locks onto other devices as you'd expect. I understand from others that there is, of course, no problem with Google Pay.

The two phones come equipped with stereo speakers. One fires from the bottom and the other utilises the phone-call's earpiece, like many phones these days which have stereo. Motorola boast that these speakers are "the loudest, most powerful stereo speakers in a smartphone ever, plus precision tuning for professional-quality sonic performance and deeper, fuller sound." They have got a company called Waves to tune them to "deliver professional-quality sonic performance on smartphone speakers in a way that’s never been done before". So how about in practice.

The sound coming out of the speakers is great on both phones but I do believe that the Edge+ just pips the Edge on volume and quality, but it’s a close thing and I might be convincing myself! It may be that the components are the same and the slight difference is based on the small case size enhancement of the Edge+. It's slightly bigger so has more space for the sound to move around. Maybe. I put the sound output up against the Pixel 3 and the Edge devices are certainly louder than the Pixel but maybe not quite as good quality. By this I mean the bass, low-end and middle-range sounds. The stereo separation is good and placed 18" in front of the head visual media can be enjoyed to good effect. The more phones I review, the better this gets these days and it's often hard to differentiate.

The sound can be adjusted with the Moto Audio facility, device-wide, accessed via the Sound menu or Notification Shade toggle. There is a caveat here though and difference between the two phones, favouring the Edge. On the Edge we find lots of adjustments, switches, sliders and pre-sets to tweak the output and it's really rather good when this has been done. Strangely though, the Edge+ version of Moto Audio does not let the user drill down as far with settings - see that 'pencil' is missing and you just get the basic three pre-sets. So more control on the Edge for sure. In reality, even without custom controls it's fine on both and I have no complaints about the output on volume though as usual, some of that volume is compromised when equalisation is employed. You can't beat physics it seems. Yet!

There does seem to be a difference, however, with the headphone output utilising a pair of reference 3.5mm Sony headphones for both tests. The Edge doesn't quite seem to reach the high standard of the Edge+ with the latter blowing my ears off at 100% volume! When I try the same trick on the Edge, it's not the same. The sound is not as loud, nor such good quality. The Edge is not bad, it's just that the Edge+ is louder and better quality. Incidentally, the supplied earbuds are good enough for almost all, laying aside audiophiles who will expect the extraordinary. The difference between the phones' output here is clearly in the DACs in the two different chipsets, the Edge+ having a more advanced and powerful one.

Bluetooth connectivity is excellent, as we have come to expect which, when employed, blew my ears off with the Edge as well! Bluetooth goes from strength to strength these days and really does produce a great output. Tested here with AirPods and various loudspeakers, the fix is quick, the pairing robust and the range (depending on attached equipment) good enough for roaming around the average house/garden.

The cameras on the two phones offer very reasonable facilities, especially the Edge+. The Edge+ boasts the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra's 108MP f1.8 main camera with OIS and a 1/1.33" sensor. By default this shoots down to 27MP but 'Ultra Res' allows shooting at the 108MP so loads more resolution for post-editing and cropping. This supported by an 8MP f2.4 3x Optical Zoom with OIS and a 16MP f2.2 wide-angle/Macro unit. The Edge has a less capable 64MP f1.8 main shooter with a smaller 1/1.72" sensor supported by an 8MP f2.4 2x Optical Zoom and that same 16MP f2.2 wide-angle/Macro unit. Again, the main camera can be forced to shoot at 64MP but the default similarly makes use of the Quad Pixel tech to produce 16MP stills. Note that there is no OIS available on the Edge at all. Both phones have a 25MP f2 Selfie and also a ToF Depth sensor, though on the Edge+ this is hidden next to the LED Flash. Video on the Edge+ can be shot at 6K@30fps whereas the Edge 'only' has 4K!

The camera app is very much the same on both units with variations only where specs dictate, like the Ultra Res level or 6K video. To the Moto user, the camera app is most familiar with all the usual suspects like Spot Colour, Cutout, Night Vision, grid, spirit-level etc. with options for manual overrides of the AI and Auto shot-optimisation and smart-composition if chosen. At this point I'm going to do my usual trick of asking my Phones Show Chat co-host Steve Litchfield if he'll take some samples of what I have shot here with the Edge and Edge+ and add his thoughts after putting them through some of his fine testing and pixel-peeping. So here are his thoughts - many thanks to him.

Steve's Cameras Verdict
Having looked through Ted's sample photos from each phone, there are no major horrors in terms of image processing. Which is good. The optics don't seem flagship level, as in competing with the Samsung and iPhone flagships, but the whole camera package seems well thought out. Obviously the Edge+ is slightly more flexible, with better zoom range and options, and with AF on the wide angle, but either phone will be fine for every day photos of a variety of subjects. With, obviously, the caveat that due to Covid-19 restrictions, the test scenes and their analysis were limited. Roll on sunshine, summer and freedom!

Summary
I'm very pleased indeed with my Edge+ and it's commanded my SIM Card and attention since it arrived. I really thought I'd be back on my Pixel and returning the Edge+ as there's a significant amount of cash tied up here, even if under half price. I also like very much the Edge and for the £199 some were able to get it for, it's a steal. I'm a big Moto fan, as you might know if you're reading this, so maybe it was always going to be a win-win for me personally. I had been eyeing this up since release-day! As for the difference between the two, for me, the extra money was worth it for the Plus version, but the Edge is certainly no slouch, performing very well.

Which one the next person might go for will depend on how much they value that higher resolution camera, Qi Wireless Charging, bigger battery, faster and more powerful chipset, significantly more RAM, mmWave connectivity and WiFi 6. On the other hand, they might more highly value the Edge for the (very) slightly smaller size, microSD Card for expanded storage and dual SIM Card capability. They are both cracking devices and as we often say on Phones Show Chat, last year's phones represent great value almost always - and as time goes on, that equation gets better and better for the buyer.

The broader question is more about the non-Moto Edge competition I guess. One that comes readily to mind for a similar 21:9 is the Sony Xperia 1 II (or 5 II) but they are still big money and nowhere near the value of this pair of Edge phones priced as they are now. In order to get the feature-set of the Edge+ you will need to go to flagships, Samsung maybe as long as you don't want to stick closely to Vanilla Android. Or there's compelling arguments from well-priced Xiaomi, Redmi, Oppo, Realme and OnePlus offerings - but none of them can tick all the boxes which the Edge+ does for the same (current, reduced) money and, like Samsung, are far from Vanilla. As always, it's a personal thing - and for me, personally, I know which way I would jump, have done, and am happy!

Sunday, 28 February 2021

PodHub UK Podcasts for February 2021

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

Phones Show Chat
Tuesday 2nd February 2021
Steve and I return with a mid-week lockdown special! We're mostly nattering about my latest voyage into Samsung (which seems to be an annual event)! Also other topics though, including a flow of updates, Redmi reviews coming and a bit more Nokia nostalgia!

Whatever Works
Episode 130 - The Plucky Pianist
Friday 5th February 2021
Aidan and I are here once again with our mischievous fortnightly roundup of Whatever Works for us and you! This time we head for the Deed Poll office to call ourselves Ian, discover Thyme flavoured teeth-paste stuff, crack open the brandy and even have a go at the Test Match Special theme on a Thumb Piano!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 6th February 2021
Steve and I welcome back Mike Warner for another geeky roundup of all the stuff he's been up to as we also compare budget phones with flagships.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 7th February 2021
Gareth and I are back again with another weekly natter about all things tech that have caught our eyes. We Echo Amazon's 10-incher enthusiasm, decide whether or not BT and EE deserve a Halo, work out if Backup and Sync is great or crap and even send out an appeal to Stephen Fry!

The Phones Show
Tuesday 9th February 2021
Do join Steve over at his YouTube channel as he plays the value game with two phones from each end of the financial gulf!

Projector Room
Episode 81 - Spiderverse Whiplash
Wednesday 10th February
Here we are then with another natter about all things film, cinema and TV. I'm joined as usual by Gareth and Allan as we also find out what you've been watching and add our thoughts.

Phones Show Chat
Friday 11th February 2021
Steve and I are back with our usual roundup of what we're up to in the world of mobile phones. Plenty of topics flying around from the latest and greatest to the cheap'n'cheerful - and much between.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 14th February 2021
Gareth and I are back again to Wow! and ridicule (in equal measure) what's popped up in our tech eyeline this week! Our pulses race, even without an Apple Watch, as we chuck out Android in favour of ChromeOS. We Switch to Android from Nintendo and Edge towards a different browser. Instant gratification is ours from photos, some with sticky backs and we gobble Pi up whilst gaming! This clap-trap and so much more - come and join us! 

Whatever Works
Episode 131 - Scalloped Netherhose
Friday 19th February 2021
Aidan and I are back once again with an hour of fun and frivolous festivity for the fortnight! This time we Fan our Netherhose, massage giraffes and even bring Lego to our reception area! Do join us for the madness.

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 20th February 2021
Steve and I welcome first-timer on PSC Ian Furlong of CoolSmartPhone fame as we natter for an hour or so about his take on all things Mobile Phone. Loads of good stuff packed in as always.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 21st February 2021
Gareth and I are back again with our Sunday round-up of all things tech that seem mildly interesting! Join us again as we jabber on for a while! Sliding screens and tiny toys, Looting and shooting from your chair, Big beach boomboxes and BlackBerry's back - we Master a View of it all!

Projector Room
Episode 82 - The Red Rams
Wednesday 24th February
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with our thoughts and yours on the last fortnight of consuming all things cinema, film and TV. With the possible exception of cinema in the UK! Loads of goodies as we dodge the Red Dot, come #Alive and Think We're Alone amongst Tribes of Europa. Join us to make sense of all that!

The Phones Show
Episode 416 - QWERTY Options in 2021
Tuesday 24th February
Join Steve as he considers the question of QWERTY in today's modern glass-slab dominant world of smartphones and other devices too. Is there still a place for it?

Phones Show Chat
Episode 627 - Strung Up With Android
Saturday 27th February 2021
Dan Carter is back this week to chat with Steve and I about all things mobile phone and beyond. Loads of good stuff as usual.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 28th February 2021
Come on in and join Gareth and I again this week as we chat about all things tech on a Sunday lunchtime! This week we bang on about Biological Batteries, Battlestation laptops, Smart Benches and pastel shades of iMac whilst juggling 29 million refunds, 1" phone-camera sensors and consider cute Canon Weebles wobbling! Enjoy. We did!


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

Friday, 26 February 2021

Realme X50 5G

The Realme X50 5G became available in the summer of 2020 and the company sent one over for us to look at in error as we had in fact asked for the X50 Pro, a more highly specified mobile phone. Consequently we sat and waited for that to arrive and to swap them over. But it never did. So we didn't! Some way down the line then, I thought I'd fire it up and see what the X50 5G (non-Pro) has to offer.

The bright yellow box contains a 30W charger, pokey-hole tool for the SIM Card tray, USB-A to USB-C cable, the usual papers, a 'smoked' TPU and the phone itself. In this case it's Ice Silver but the global version (which this is) is also available in Jungle Green. The RRP for this unit last summer was £279 but it can now, in spring 2021 be snagged for certainly less than that with various deals to look out for regularly.

First impressions physically are that it's very similar in size to many phones these days (big!), in most dimensions, including those I have to hand here, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, Nokia 9 PureView and Moto G Pro. It feels solid in the hand and quite heavy/robust. It comes with a plastic on the screen (that didn't last long in my hands!) and is incredibly slippery. The front of the phone is flat glass with two top-left (portrait) selfie-holes and the back, surprisingly at this price-point, is glass too. Very smooth it is of course and the Ice Silver has that now-common 'shimmering' look to it which catches the light at every turn. Even more surprisingly, the frame is made from aluminium, making this a really very well constructed phone.

There are two separate volume buttons on the left which do have a little bit of sideways 'play' when moved and on the right is a slim capacitive fingerprint scanner and power button combined. Up the top there's a microphone and at the bottom, USB-C port, SIM Card tray and loudspeaker. The curved back of the phone meets the aluminium frame nicely and camera cluster laid out nicely in landscape. The island sticks out a millimetre but is completely protected with the TPU in place, having its own 'ridge'. The TPU fits like a (very tight) glove and is quite hard to get on and off. Good and bad!

First things first and the SIM Card tray has a trough each side of it for two nanoSIM cards and is very small, like a Pixel tray. The setup procedure got confused at the point of choosing default Search Engine, but I've seen this elsewhere to be fair, so not unique to Realme, sending the user back in a loop to an earlier point in the setup procedure. Would confuse many. Furthermore, I told it to copy from my Pixel and it started to do that - signed in and all, then it all seemed to fall apart and started me from scratch anyway, not signed into anything Google on the Realme. It seemed to be the sign-in process that fell over as when I manually signed in via the Google App on the Realme it started copying from my Pixel. Needs work by someone!

No Gesture Navigation on by default and the usual hunt was needed in a disorganised Settings to find it and turn on. The fingerprint and face ID were quick to register and appear to work well on both counts. Settings allow for options to lift-to-wake via face or touch fingerprint scanner, pattern or PIN unlock - all the usual suspects. The face unlock can be set to bypass the lock-screen, which is great if less secure. I suppose.

Let's get the bloat discussion out of the way next! Ready? Deep breath. Included against my will are Calculator, Clock, Clone Phone, Compass, FaceBook, File Manager, Game Space, Phone, Photos, WPS Office and Weather. Of those, only FaceBook and WPS Office can be uninstalled. I give a pass to Music and Videos for playing local media content. Actually, it could have been a lot worse. Many are! On a positive note, Google's Messages and Contacts are the default applications. So a few minutes to get organised with that and we're onto the Home Screen.

Thankfully Realme have allowed the Google Feed to the left (hurrah!) and an option of an App Drawer - even removable At A Glance and Search widgets from the home screen (one up on Pixel)! Long-press the home screen for a bunch of options including wallpaper, scrolling effects and Widgets (which are unhelpfully only on a carousel along the bottom of the screen, though perfectly functional). The notifications panel certainly has nods to iOS, but it's perfectly usable and clear, so no complaints. Edit which toggles you want to see in the usual way and get access to the brightness slider etc. The Status Bar's icons are a little small for my liking, but otherwise fine - apart from all being shuffled right to make room for the two Selfie cameras.

I'll come to Settings in a minute but just to mention that this phone is running Realme UI 1.0 and there's a promise to push 2.0 based on Android 11 to it sometime in 2021, but no specific date. According to 91mobiles, Realme UI 2.0 brings a whole bunch of stuff including Dual Mode Music Share, customisable notification bar colours, and three styles of Dark Mode, global Theme colour function, Always-on-Display, new fonts and icons, Sleep Capsule, Floating Windows, Deep-Sea Privacy Plan to ensure that the user’s data and information are safe and secure and many more! Sounds like it's worth the wait - especially for the AoD!

Settings, then, remains a complicated mess in my view, compared to the 'standard' Google configuration. Once again, fine for someone to spend two years with but coming from a 'clean' Android version such as a Pixel, Moto, Nokia or Sony, it's just a case of there being stuff everywhere. Once found, make a note of it! Hopefully in UI 2.0 they will also improve the search engine and some of the terms used in order to find various settings. Don't get me wrong - there's oodles of good stuff in there - all sorts of 'extras' available, many of them well thought out and often enhancing the Android experience. My complaint is just that I can't find anything I am looking for without a treasure map! Drilling down into all that stuff is much like it was for the Realme X3 SuperZoom which I reviewed back last year, so do check that out to save repetition here.

The front panel is, as I say, flat and an IPS LCD with a refresh-rate of 120Hz, which was unexpected. It's a 6.57" 1080p 20:9 screen returning 401ppi. For those who can tell the difference, the 120Hz must be excellent. I can - just. But I seem to be alone! It is certainly rapidly becoming standard (also among mid-tier devices) to up the screen refresh-rate (and even into the low-end as we go forward). I have just switched it to 120 from 60 and really can't tell - I don't think! There's an auto-switch too, so presumably 120 means forced 120 without resorting to developer settings.

The overall brightness looks great to me but the auto-setting is a bit aggressive towards too dim. Presumably it will learn in time. As I usually say at this stage, this is no 'deep-blacks' OLED but it's perfectly usable and for me at least, bright enough even outdoors. The colour can be changed from Vivid to Gentle but it really needs to stay on Vivid! Gentle is just dour! You can also warm up or cool down the colour temperature for small changes. Looking at my photos, they look bright, colourful and as saturated as they were when I took them! In general I think the screen is great and perfectly usable for most people.

Currently the phone is running under Android 10 (Realme UI 1.0) and when I turned it on it jumped to January 2021 Google Security, so not too bad at all. It is sporting the SnapDragon 765G which is the same as used on the 2019 Pixel range. My usual tests copying data to and from a PC, a microSD Card (via adapter here) and an SSD via USB-C (UFS2.1) demonstrated that it's not the fastest read/write arrangement in the world (slower than the Pixel 5 for example) but gets the job done. Who's in a hurry!

The chipset performs perfectly well for everyday use. I had a car racing game going to test this and it seemed to run perfectly well to me - maybe not so much a more demanding game. There's 6GB RAM on this unit, which, again, seems to slide through all the tasks needed for everyday use without clouting apps from yesterday on the head! There's an 8GB RAM option available in some markets.

Yes, there's no microSD Card slot here sadly, which is kind of unusual at this price-point really but becoming a bit more popular with these Chinese phones. To be fair, with 128GB storage here, plugging in media to the USB-C when needed does the job for more (unless you need to charge too - adapter time)! The phone reads and writes to/from my 512GB card (via that adapter) and also the 2TB SSD. Almost needless to say there's no HDMI-Out here, so my attempt to play media on my telly using a cable was once again, an act of purest optimism!

The X50 5G has a single mono speaker firing out of the bottom of the phone. Initially testing with the supplied Music app, the output is certainly loud enough for the average user and for personal use, not a party! Sadly, the quality is not great. A tinny top-end is cringeworthy, bass almost non-existent and the always-on (for speaker) Dolby with four pre-sets (Smart, Movie, Gaming and Music) really don't help much at all until you get down to about 50% volume. So to a Music player in which equalisation is possible and yes, where the equalisation sliders can be adjusted, a reasonable tone can be achieved - but as always, with the volume pay-off. Less loud! For personal use on a desk whilst working this is fine, of course.

The supplied Video app doesn't even let you get to the Dolby controls during play which makes it a bit peck-and-hunt to try and tell if it makes any difference! But it doesn't, so I'll save you the bother. Same is true in YouTube and any other media playing app of the ilk. Fire up something like VLC and you can get to some control of course and for casual viewing alone, it's fine. Just not great. Or even good! Perhaps headphones will help.

Oh no, there's no 3.5mm audio-out socket. Never mind, I have a dongle - and can try Bluetooth of course. The audio output is supposed to be 24-bit here so it should be decent enough but I don't have a pair of USB-C earphones here to try it on a basic level. Oh well, enhanced Razer Phone dongle it is! Guess what? It sounds fabulous. Which is what you might expect with 24-bit and 32-bit gear being used in tandem. You can also then drill down further into the Dolby settings and play around with more pre-sets and adjustments. Good stuff.

What's not so good is that you still can't get to the Dolby settings while video is running in the background in their own Video app! You can (well, I can) in YouTube and using the Music App of course but this renders it not really system-wide Dolby. Update: I've now laid hands on a simple USB-C to 3.5mm dongle for a couple of quid from Amazon and as we might expect, it's nothing like using the Razer unit but it's really not half bad. The output into my reference headphones is clean, a little lacking in bass compared to the Razer's dongle and certainly not as loud, but really quite good enough and loud enough for most users.

Bluetooth 5.0 works perfectly well either hooking up to a speaker or earphones and produces an excellent sound as we have come to expect, depending, of course as always with connected equipment. The pairing process was very quick and straight-forward and the phone held onto the signal for a reasonable distance. It's getting quite hard to fault Bluetooth performance these days on any phone.

Connectivity seems solid with 4G for cellular on both calls and data in my tests. I'm unable to test 5G I'm afraid, but presumably it works too! Apparently you can put a 5G SIM Card in both slots and expect data on either. As I said earlier, bluetooth seems great and NFC tested here works well for communication between devices - presumably if I was allowed out it would work with Google Pay! GPS has been tested here with mapping and various weather apps - all seems in order and getting/holding a fix and WiFi has been tested with two routers and a MiFi. Apart from that wonky setup procedure above, the WiFi seems strong and good.

The battery is a 4,200mAh unit, so pretty big but certainly passed by these days as more towards 5,000mAh seems to be more the norm. Having said that, this battery seems to be performing well enough. 30W Fast Charging will get about three quarters of the battery charged from flat in half an hour, so that's good for emergencies. There's no wireless charging of course at this price, though as I have said before - what would it cost? Another couple of quid? Don't know - seems like nobody is bothered much about it anyway.

In my tests here, the pattern is becoming familiar with these phones with batteries around this size - during my testing period I was easily able to get through one day and without charging again, a good way through Day 2. With frugal use it could certainly make it to the end of that too. As for my 10% reading test, I've done this a few times now and the fairly clear result is about 1hr 30min which is far from the best but also from the worst. Batteries with this kind of performance make day to day use perfectly good enough for the vast majority of people.

Lastly, to the camera and the array offers a 
48MP f/1.8 (normal viewpoint) main shooter, a secondary 8MP f/2.3 (wide-angle), 2MP f/2.4 (macro) and another 2MP f/2.4 (for depth). The last two are often the 'fillers' to get the marketing specs offering a 'quad' arrangement but actually the Ultra Macro mode ain't half bad with close-ups. There's a whole bunch of modes to play with including the smart Google Lens, a Text Scanner, Pro Expert mode with the usual range of manual controls and for switching to RAW. No optical zoom here but a slider for up to 10x digital which is a bit fuzzy hand-held, but certainly useful enough at 2 or 3 times. But then it's only a framing tool, so the user might really as well crop later.

Night Mode
seems to do a reasonable job with 'hold still' then computing the best shot from the AI gathering as much light as it can etc. Portrait mode seems to deal well enough with limiting depth of field, throwing backgrounds out of focus pleasingly enough and if the user wants to force the unit to shoot at the full 48MP (instead of the quad-bayer at 12) they can do that too. There's an AI engine running for scene recognition if wanted (which seems to do quite well) and unstabilised video shooting at up to 
4K@30fps. Dual Selfies at 16MP f/2 (normal) and 2MP f/2.4 (depth) offer a reasonable Portrait facility with some blurring of background.

The cameras on offer here are pretty ordinary, even to me. There's loads of phones out there that will do pretty much the same job - more than good enough for the masses, but anyone with greater ambitions or pixel-peepers need to move along. It would have been great to at least see a 2x optical zoom here, but I do wonder if the target audience would value it. Maybe more useful would be OIS.

Let's go back to where I started then and Phones Show Chat awaiting the Pro model to compare this with (which never arrived). The near-double price of the Pro version would want us to be looking for much more. Certainly there's an AMOLED screen, but not with the 120Hz refresh-rate offered here, only 90. A SnapDragon 865 instead of 765G. Doubt if most of us would have been able to tell the difference outside of heavy gaming. More storage options and RAM, but the price difference then goes up even more. I would personally value the better sound output via stereo speakers, but I'd have to hear that to know as it could still be tinny and poor like this one - only double - and I would actually rather have the side-mounted capacity fingerprint scanner than the Pro's under-glass, however good it is.

The Pro does have a 2x optical zoom and I have already acknowledged how useful that can be for some but the rest is insignificant in terms of better features. Alright, faster charging capability - but there's really not much here to justify doubling the price and this one remains much better value for money. However, this phone is now a year old nearly and other contenders have come along which frankly offer more. Xiaomi and Redmi spring to mind as they offer better and better features, constantly driving prices down. I shall look forward to the update of the UI to v2 especially for that AoD option.

But don't get me wrong, this is a very capable 5G phone indeed, very well made, with a large battery and a 120Hz refresh screen. If it were seen at the right price it would be worth grabbing, but not the price it is when those around it offer more for less. I might have recommended it last summer but at RRP it's not going to be a contender any longer. I reckon the right price now should be about £150 or so. How quickly things move on - there's nothing wrong much with this phone - it would serve the user well, but there's more out there. Better.

The Terror (Series 1)

Just come to the end of this, this week and thoroughly recommend a watch for those who haven't skipped ahead on the iPlayer and gorged t...