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Reviews

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Hands-On With The Blu Selfie: Dual 13MP Cameras And A Great Form Factor Go A Long Way

While smartphone enthusiasts typically care deeply about every spec inside the phones they buy, there's one feature that nearly every smartphone owner wants: a good camera. In fact, on several occasions, I've had friends and family ask which phone they should buy based around that one qualification: which phone has the best camera? Needless to say, a good shooter is a pretty big deal in the smartphone world.

With a name like Selfie, to say that Blu's newest handset is all about the camera experience would be pretty accurate. Not only does it have a 13 MP rear shooter, but also a 13 MP front camera with flash.

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Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 (5.5") Review: $250 Buys You So Much More Phone Than It Used To

Not long ago, a $250 unlocked smartphone was probably asking for trouble - a sketchy processor, WVGA display, potato-resolution camera, and 3G were basically what you could expect. But as technology has marched forward, component costs for things like 1080p LCD panels, 13MP camera sensors, and LTE have become much cheaper.

The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 5.5" (I know, I know, the name is ridiculous), which I will from here on call the Idol 3 for the sake of brevity and sanity, has the things you want in a modern smartphone. A big - but not ridiculously large - 1080p IPS-LCD display, a modern Qualcomm processor, dual front-facing speakers, LTE, a 13MP Sony IMX image sensor, and a respectably capacious 2910mAh battery.

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Sol Republic Shadow Review: Bluetooth Headphones That Do Just About Everything Right

Sol Republic has quickly carved out a place in the consumer audio market since their founding in 2011, so it was just a matter of time before they would offer a set of Bluetooth in-ear headphones. Shadow is their initial take on the category and I’ve been testing it out for the better part of two weeks. My overall take is that Shadow is exactly what I expected from Sol Republic: good looking, well built, solid albeit consumer-oriented audio, and fairly priced.

Before we get into the nitty gritty details, here’s a breakdown of what’s ahead.

The Good

Audio Surprisingly powerful bass that stays clear even at the lowest frequencies.
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Evolution DRONE Bluetooth Controller Review: Brilliant Portable Design With Some Disappointing Usability Issues

Mobile electronics have to have compromises. You can't shove a 55-inch screen onto a phone no matter how hard you try, end eventually even the biggest battery will run out. It's all about balancing the desirable with the practical. A similar principle extends to the more niche world of mobile-focused gaming controllers: while we'd all like a console experience in a portable package, even the most generous pockets will be strained if you try to shove a Dual Shock into them.

So we have a sliding scale, portability versus utility. You can go big, with console-style controllers that have full button complements like the MOGA Pro or the Thrustmaster Score-A.

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Nyne Aqua Bluetooth Speaker Review: A Floating Speaker That Sinks In The Sound Department

If there's one market I've seen change dramatically over the last three years or so, it has to be the portable speaker scene. It went from being a category with a few mostly niche products that you had to convince yourself to spend a couple hundred bucks on to something pretty incredible - there's easily something for every type of person, lifestyle, and budget on the market right now. And really, it keeps getting better. More features, better sound quality, improved portability, and increased battery life are all things that we continuously see these days.

While we've looked at waterproof (or completely submersible) speakers in the past, the Nyne Aqua stands apart from the crowd with one very unique feature: it's not only waterproof, but it also floats.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 Review: Samsung's Most Unexpected And Best Phone To Date

Samsung must have known it had a problem early in the Galaxy S5's run when most of the reviews called the phone "boring" or "predictable," while also conceding that it was a good device. A good, predictable phone isn't going to sell like gangbusters, and indeed, the Galaxy S5 fell short of expectations. Over the next few months, we saw devices like the Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy Note 4 that played around with more premium materials and different designs, but the Galaxy S6 is the culmination of Samsung's plans to rehab its reputation.

The Galaxy S6 is still distinctly Samsung with the oblong home button, big camera sensor, and industry-leading AMOLED panel, but it almost feels like it was made by a version of Samsung from some bizarre parallel reality where plastic doesn't exist.

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Quick Thoughts On Misfit: The Low Maintenance, Less Involved Activity Trackers And Platform

You can imagine that running around the CES show floor for someone who has been fascinated (as well as convinced and positively influenced) by wearable activity trackers felt like breaking free inside a candy factory. Dozens if not hundreds of brands were vying for everyone's attention and a share of the pie in the tiny wearable market, and I had to check most of the intriguing and known ones to see what they had to offer.  Among the hundreds of displays, from the companies I'd never heard of to the recognizable brands like Fitbit, Garmin, and Withings, one surprised me the most: Misfit.

I knew the Indiegogo origin story of Misfit — which translated into skepticism in my mind —  and I'd read about its Shine tracker and simpler/cheaper Flash version, but I wasn't completely convinced by the quality nor the premise of the brand.

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Marshall Major II Review: Finally, A Good, Portable On-Ear Headphone That Isn't A Fashion Disaster

A "cool" personal audio brand is a surprisingly rare thing, and if you've paid much attention to the market for premium brand headphones lately, Marshall's been a real up-and-comer. The Marshall brand is actually licensed by a Swedish company called Zound Industries, with Marshall granting the right to use the iconic trademark and style of its amplifiers and other products on personal audio gear. It doesn't hurt that the products are good - Zound has made some surprisingly great Bluetooth speakers and headphones, and the original Major on-ear was probably the brand's biggest success yet.

The Major II is a small(-ish) update to that headphone, with a few new tricks in terms of construction and style, though mostly a promise of superior power and low-end response that the original were, albeit only slightly, criticized for lacking.

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Parrot Bebop (Quadricopter Drone) Review: Easily Parrot's Best Drone Yet

I've used the two large quadricopters Parrot has released to date - the AR.Drone and AR.Drone 2.0 - but ever since I saw the Bebop at CES earlier this year, I knew I had to give it a try. The Bebop attacks two of the biggest issues of its predecessors head on; namely, size and video quality.

Parrot has stepped up to a full 1080p-ready video sensor (it also takes 14MP stills) with an f2.2 wide-angle fisheye lens on the Bebop, and also reduced the size of the drone itself dramatically. The Bebop in outdoor trim (no hull guards) has about one fourth of the footprint of the old AR.Drones in their full bumpers.

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HTC One M9 Review: The Phone Only HTC Could Build... For The Third Time

HTC was one of Android's earliest supporters. When the Dream launched in 2009, little did HTC likely know that its fortunes would skyrocket in the few years after, along with its share of the smartphone market. Not long after, though, those fortunes began to wane - with the launch of the original One series (One X, S, V), HTC's first attempt to rebrand its smartphone design image began.

The One X was, and I still think is, a beautiful phone. While the Tegra version was lamentable, the Qualcomm-powered variants received generally wide praise. The next year, One M7 launched. It, too, was very good-looking, and while the Ultrapixel camera was controversial, the phone debuted to very positive reviews.

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