Ahead of this year’s Mobile World Congress, sceptical onlookers were openly questioning whether the annual industry showcase was at risk of losing its ‘wow’ factor after top firms began flaunting their hottest devices elsewhere. However, as anyone who has been following the goings-on at the Fira Gran Via this week will know, such fears turned out to be wide of the mark, with the likes of Samsung, Sony, LG, Huawei, ZTE and HP all bringing their A-game to Barcelona. Now that most of the major manufacturers have held their press events, the time is ripe to roundup what the big players delivered this year, so without further ado, let’s take a look at the best new smartphones and tablets from MWC 2013.
LG Optimus G Pro
LG’s latest attempt to crack the high-end smartphone market is a serious piece of kit, and one that has delivered pretty much everything we thought it would before we touched down in Barcelona. Tipped before the show as a Galaxy Note 2 rival, what has become apparent over the last few days is that the LG Optimus G Pro is in fact a far superior device to Samsung’s 2012 offering – in terms of pure specifications, at least. With a Full HD, 5.5in display, 13-megapixel primary camera, and beastly quad-core Snapdragon 600 SoC clocked at 1.7GHz and supported by 2GB of RAM, the G Pro is a true new-gen “phablet” that has immediately installed itself at the top of its class – though its plastic construction might strike particularly finicky consumers as tacky.
Shipping with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, the Optimus G Pro comes with LG’s QSlide feature, which enables you to drag and drop up to three apps around the screen. There’s a monster removable 3,140 mAh battery as well, while the G Pro’s 32GB on-board storage capacity can be cheaply and easily augmented via the device’s microSD card slot. Coupled with the 1080p display and all the additional screen real estate, the Optimus G Pro is a media buff’s dream. Indeed, if you live in S. Korea, you can also make use of an integrated TV tuner and extendible built-in antenna. If you don’t happen to reside there, don’t worry – the LG Optimus G Pro is due to hit Europe in Q2, and we’re currently chasing up more information regarding UK release dates and pricing.
Huawei Ascend P2
OK, so the Ascend P2 wasn’t the monster 8-core handset some of us were expecting. But Huawei did stake a pretty lofty claim when it dubbed the device the “world’s fastest smartphone” – a title that’s going to get some pretty intense scrutiny in the near future, we imagine. In the meantime, we’ll just have to take the Chinese manufacturer’s word that the combination of a quad-core 1.5GHz processor and Cat 4 class LTE makes it the nippiest mobile out there.
What we can say with more certainty is that this is Huawei’s most sophisticated, grown up handset to date. The Ascend P2 measures 4.7in and offers a standard HD resolution of 1,280 x 730 pixels at 315ppi – while Full HD would have been nice, those of us who have taken the device for a spin know that its display is plenty bright.
The ridiculously skinny ‘6.5mm’ girth that some predicted didn’t quite pan out either, but the P2 is still pretty slim at 8.4mm, and the extra-thickness apparently allowed Huawei to better integrate the 13-megapixel camera found on the device’s rear. Elsewhere, the Ascend P2 runs Huawei’s custom Emotion UI Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean overlay and packs a hefty 2,420 mAh battery. It’s an impressive overall package that we think more than justifies its €399 (£350) price tag, and one we’re hoping to spend some quality time with once the Huawei Ascend P2 touches down in Blighty in Q2.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
Our gang of pundits are really impressed with the Galaxy Note 8.0. Samsung’s new small form factor tablet looks every bit the legitimate Apple iPad mini rival it’s meant to be, thanks to the company really focusing on foregrounding the strengths of its larger Galaxy devices. The Note 8.0 is all about multitasking, note taking, drawing, and everything else S Pen-related, but it’s also an aesthetically pleasing product with a spectacularly thin girth of just 7.6mm. While its standard HD, 1,280 x 800 pixel display may only equate to an uninspiring image sharpness of 189ppi, our initial play with the Note 8.0 revealed its quad-core 1.6GHz Exynos chipset to be a highly confident performer – thanks in no small part to this low-resolution setup, we imagine.
Other key specifications include 2GB of RAM, a (fixed) 4,600 mAh battery, 16GB or 32GB of on-board storage, and a microSD card slot to expand this capacity. It’s worth noting that the product that eventually makes it to the UK may feature slightly tweaked specs, but for now, we think we’re lined up to be offered a 3G (HSPA+) Note 8.0 iteration as well as a Wi-Fi-only model. A European roll-out starting in Q2 would seem to make sense, though nothing has been confirmed at this stage and pricing is also predictably up in the air.
ZTE Grand Memo
Like the LG Optimus G Pro, ZTE’s Grand Memo has been conceived as a rival to the wildly successful Samsung Galaxy Note 2 – right down to the cringe-inducing use of a stationary-related moniker. With a 1,280 x 720 pixel resolution, its display is crisp if not super-bright, but what really makes the Grand Memo noteworthy is its Snapdragon 800 chipset. It’s the first handset to feature the new-generation Qualcomm SoC, in fact, and boasts a powerful quad-core configuration with a 1.5GHz clock speed, plus 2GB of RAM. That should mean that it confidently handles more intensive tasks like concurrent app use and gaming.
Elsewhere, the ZTE Grand Memo sports a pretty natty 13-megapixel rear camera – though as the HTC One launch highlighted, it’s not all about the megapixel specification – and ships with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Measuring 8.5mm thin, it’s not going to be too much of a burden to handle, but what might cause problems for interested parties is availability. We’re assuming since ZTE bothered trotting the device out at MWC that it’s going to get a fairly inclusive European launch, and that given the glut of consumer releases occurring then, Q2 is a likely window. However, ZTE has only confirmed the Grand Memo for China so far, so whether or not it ends up in the UK is far from assured.
Nokia Lumia 720
Sadly, Nokia’s MWC outing didn’t see it break cover with a Lumia 8000 featuring a 400-megapixel camera – or whatever madcap fantasy the rumour-mongers were busy perpetuating ahead of the show. Instead, the Finnish smartphone manufacturer opted to play it safe this year, filling out its Lumia range with new mid-range and entry-level additions. The Lumia 520 is potentially lined up to be the world’s cheapest Windows Phone 8 handset with an expected retail price of around £120, but it’s the Lumia 720 that really caught our attention thanks to its impressive camera features.
The Nokia Lumia 720 is intended to sit snugly between the relatively high-end Lumia 820 and the more budget Lumia 620. Based on what we learned at MWC, it borrows its imaging capabilities from the former, featuring a 6.7-megapixel sensor and a Carl Zeiss lens with f/1.9 maximum aperture. The Lumia 720 also offers a decent build quality, featuring a well-proportioned 4.2in display complete with a curved glass finish, and it benefits from some real Nokia swag by way of its wireless charging support. The 800 x 480 pixel resolution is on the low side and the display’s pixel density (217ppi) is actually less than that of the 520 – a result of the 720’s larger screen size. However, at €249 – or about £220 – the Lumia 720 is a very well priced mid-range product that will no doubt turn a few heads when it descends in Q2.
Asus Padfone Infinity
At first glance, the Asus Padfone Infinity is simply a large-screen smartphone – and an impressive one at that. Its 5in Super IPS LCD screen offers an ultra-fine picture to the tune of 441ppi, while its 13-megapixel rear camera is also near the top of its class – on paper at least. Similarly, the Infinity boasts top-notch internal specifications, including a 1.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 chipset. You can get the device with either 32GB or 64GB of storage, plus there’s LTE support and even Android 4.2 Jelly Bean to boot.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the Infinity measures either 6.3mm or 8.9mm in girth, depending on whether you’re sizing up from its thinnest or thickest point, and its sleekness is complemented by a sturdy build-quality. Throw in chic colour schemes like “Champagne Gold” and “Titanium Gray,” and you have a gadget that more than holds its own as a high-end handset. Of course, the Padfone Infinity really distinguishes itself by its ability to slide into the back of a 10in, 1080p tablet and bring it to life. We have to confess to being pretty smitten with the Infinity, both as a pure handset offering and for its transformational capabilities, so watch this space – we’ll be doing our utmost to get a hold of a review sample as soon as the device lands in the UK.
Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Following on from the acclaimed Xperia Z handset, Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z is a 10.1in Android slate that – like its pocket-dwelling brethren – exudes class at every turn. The Japanese manufacturer claims that it’s the world’s slimmest tablet, and measuring an ultra-svelte 6.9mm in girth, we can’t think of a device that would contradict this claim. The sense of luxury extends to the finer points of the the Tablet Z’s composition, with the 500g device featuring an all-glass design and the famed fully waterproof enclosure – meaning it can withstand up to three feet of water and still deliver Temple Run 2 on the ride home.
Elsewhere, the Tablet Z boasts an 8-megapixel rear camera featuring Sony’s Exmor R sensor – not that we regard a 10in tablet as a particularly appropriate photography device. More usefully, there’s a front-facing 2-megapixel camera for HD video chat. Sony’s latest full form factor tablet is lined up to ship with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, with a boost to version 4.2 promised, and its UK arrival is thus far scheduled for this spring. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but we’ve heard whispers that the Tablet Z will run from £399 for a Wi-Fi-only model up to £499 for a 4G LTE capable device.
HP Slate 7
HP bust out one of the biggest surprises of MWC when it unveiled the Slate 7, a 7in mini-tablet designed to take on the likes of the Google Nexus 7 at the lower-end of the small form factor segment. Our crack team didn’t exactly fall in love with the Slate 7’s relatively dim display, but did appreciate the fact that HP’s newest product features a vanilla version of Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, comes in a variety of colourful flavours, and benefits from smooth performance courtesy of dual-core Cortex-A9 CPUs clocked at 1.6GHz.
Oh, and it prints. The HP Slate 7 supports a full range of printing applications, so you’ll be able to run off documents and the like over Wi-Fi and – cue nerdy excitement – also by plugging directly into your chosen hardware via USB cable. There’s also a microSD card slot, so content fiends can expand the device’s storage beyond the standard 8GB on-board capacity, while the Slate 7 follows the example set by HTC’s handset range and features Beats Audio enhancements. HP could have aimed higher, that’s for sure – but that doesn’t mean that the Slate 7 isn’t capable of causing some serious disruption when it begins hitting shelves in the near future.
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