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Review: HTC Windows Phone 8X

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Windows Phone 7 proved a lifeline for Nokia and the announcement of Windows 8, alongside the Lumia 820 and 920, made the future look bright. Then, all of a sudden, HTC want to join the Microsoft mobile party, bringing James Corden as its +1.

Having already released the Radar, Pro 7 and Titan, HTC certainly know what they're doing with the Windows mobile offering so I was intrigued to see how it planned to differentiate itself from Nokia.

Looks

The 8X is everything I look for in a smartphone, durable, different, practical and eye-catching. The rubberised back is prone to scuffing and marking but who cares, it's colourful and looks nowhere near as bad as a scratch on a metal, plastic or glass cover.

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The rubber is not only comfortable to hold in your hand, it also improves grip, even if your hands perspire more than a pig doing star jumps in a sauna.

The slightly convex Gorilla Glass casing over the screen is very similar to that of the Lumia series but works just as well here, accompanied by the back, home and search buttons across the bottom. Along the top you'll find a front facing camera (more on that later) and the ear grille, which also houses a neat little led that lights up when charging.

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As for the edges of the device, an earphone jack and on/off/lock/unlock button are all you'll find along the top. The left side is bare and the bottom is only interrupted by the MicroUSB slot, smack bang in the middle. The right hand side is where it's all happening, the MicroSIM slot, volume control and camera button are all located on this edge of the handset.

Display

The 4.3 inch S-LCD2 screen, also found on the HTC One X, is certainly bright but despite boasting better pixel density than the Galaxy S3, iPhone 5 and Lumia 920, it just isn't that stunning.

I'm not sure if it was an isolated incident, I did tweet about it and had a few people respond saying they hadn't had a similar issue, but the screen on my 8X did seem prone to flickering. Eventually it put me off using the phone at night, for fear of that thing from The Ring crawling out of the display.

Whilst the, rectangular screen is perfect for Windows Phone 8 and the live tile format in portrait, it isn't what I prefer for watching movies or other media when in landscape.

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Spec

The 1.5 GHz dual core processor and Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon chipset give this handset as much punch as a concrete fisted Mike Tyson.

The inclusion of Beats Audio was a big pull for me, alas there are no Beats earphones as with some other previous handsets. Whilst there is a distinct difference between the audio quality when Beats is turned on or off, if seems to me to just be, primarily, a volume boost. 

Camera

The 8MP rear snapper, capable of capturing 1080p HD video, is a particular highlight. HTC aren't often renowned for its cameras but I'd say it's a highlight on the 8X.

You can find two full res images, one portrait and one landscape, here and here

There is also a 2.1MP front facer for video calls, which, unlike the equivalent on the iPhone, somehow manages not to stretch your face into an almost unrecognisable state.  

  

Windows Phone 8

Given the amount of money Microsoft has spent on advertising Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and the Surface, I was expecting big things and, ultimately, I was left disappointed.

Despite being simple to navigate and operate, i.e. accessing multi-tasking by holding the arrow, it isn't as responsive as it should be. Freezing and lag are common occurrences.

There is no doubt Windows Phone 8 is an improvement, an evolution and a stand of independence. However, I don't believe the live tiles (as fun as they are to customise and change colour) offer enough functionality to tempt Android users away from their devices.

As an OS, it feels polished, yet somehow still not fully complete. To me, the main appeal is that it's different to iOS and Android. Not better, just different.

Call Quality

With all the fancy widgets, add-ons and advancements knocking about today, people often forget that the primary use of a smartphone is a voice communication device.

Thankfully, HTC have not forgotten and have put time into ensuring the microphone is placed in the optimum position and is further boosted by an active noise cancellation feature. Perfect for walking around a busy street.

Battery life

My biggest gripe with my iPhone is the battery life. A day I leave my flat without a charger is a day I end up contactless from the afternoon.

Nokia, famed for battery life (granted that's not hard when the 3310 is your flagship device), set a solid mark with the Lumia series and you won't be surprised to hear that HTC fell short of that. Though it beats an iPhone I was expecting the juice in the 8X to stretch a bit further.

A day of medium use and a night's sleep on airplane mode is the most you can expect to get.

Conclusion

Despite a few negatives, add a few more thousand apps to the market place and I'd buy one without a second thought. The aesthetics, quirkiness and simplicity of the OS, collaborative possibilities and camera are more than enough to sell the HTC 8X to me.

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That said, if you asked me if it was better than a HTC One X, or iPhone 5, I'd be lying if I said yes. This is another phone that is all about personal preference but in terms of Windows Phones, this is the one I would pick, even over the Lumia 920. 
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CES 2013 VIDEO: Amzer screen protectors

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Would you risk hammering or drilling your smartphone?

In this video from CES 2013 in Las Vegas, Kyle Zurkan from Amzer, demonstrates the company's ShatterProof screen protection for smartphones.


CES 2013 HANDS ON: Huawei Windows 8 phone and giant phablet

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Huawei launched a few devices at CES in Las Vegas this week, while none of them were confirmed with regions, dates or prices, two smartphones, which are expected to ship to China and then worldwide, caught my eye.

The Ascend Mate - giant phablet with the "worlds largest screen"

Again, a growing trend at CES this week has been a huge leap in screen size, be that in tablets, phones, monitors or TVs. Huawei's Ascend Mate is a monster. Huuuuge, at 6.1-inches of HD 1280 x 720 LCD touchscreen compared the 5.5-inch screen of the Samsung Galaxy Note.

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But tell me something, when tablets are generally growing to ridiculous sizes, but also shrinking to 7-inches, and smartphones are growing to 6.1-inches, where will the line eventually be in the phablet space? In six months time, what will be a phone and what will distinguish a tablet?

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I found the Android device surprisingly light in the hand. The rows upon rows of Android apps sitting on the screen could get very messy or be a joy to organise for someone as OCD as me.

The Ascent W1 - Huwaei's first Windows 8 device

This entry-level Windows 8 device looks much simpler than a Nokia Lumia 920 or a HTC 8X. It still has the insanely bright colouring of the other Windows 8 devices, however it doesn't feel as superior as the other devices did when I first held them.

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It's light enough, but still feels a bit chunky, like the Lumia. I found the back panel in the bright blue to look not very appealing in plastic, which made it look like a child's toy.

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The device was fairly responsive, with easy scroll feature, but not as light to the touch as the Lumia and HTC models. It also comes with the standard additional features of Windows 8, such as kids corner and this model also features NFC.

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As I said, no pricing or availability announced as yet. 

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Testing out 4G speeds on the EE network

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EE, the new brand for mobile operator Everything Everywhere, offered a sneak preview of 4G speeds yesterday.

I was given the Huawei Ascend P1, HTC One XL and the Apple iPhone 5 to test out the speedy mobile broadband, which the company is soon to make available in the UK. 

Additionally I was given an iPhone 5 locked to 3G to compare speeds. So for the purpose of this test, the white iPhone 5 is on the 4G EE network, while the iPhone 5 in black is on the 3G EE network.

And generally the 4G speeds did impress, check out my video tests below:

4G vs 3G on Apple devices 

Testing 4G on Android devices 

Streaming YouTube on 4G vs 3G 

Downloading Angry Birds over 4G on a HTC One XL 

Downloading the Amazon app over 4G on a Huwaei P1 Ascend 

However, during my experiments I discovered that downloading anything through the iTunes store was taking an unusual amount of time on 4G. I found that it was taking up to three minutes for a single song and the seconds seemed to increase rather than decrease on the download bar.

This is quite likely that the handful of Apple devices EE was using to demonstrate 4G speeds were all connected to the same account which was being used by five different people at the same time. It could also be an Apple/4G compatibility problem - Apple failed to provide comment by the time of publication. 

So while there are claims that upgrading to 4G will be seamless, I don't think we can expect not to have a few bumps in the road.


EE has announced that from today, 4G ready handsets including the Samsung Galaxy SIII LTE, HTC One XL and Huawei Ascend P1 LTE will be available to buy on Orange and T-Mobile 3G price plans. Once the superfast EE network launches in the coming weeks, Orange and T-Mobile customers with 4G ready handsets can then choose to move across to the new 4G EE network or remain on the existing 3G network.  

Four years in the making: The best of the best.

Faisal Alani | No Comments | No TrackBacks
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karate-kid2.jpgHaving created this blog and nurtured it for the past four years, I've decided to put the best blog posts/videos from the best on one page.

Diary of an outcast: Apple's Special iPad 2 Event
I will start with my favourite post, the infamous Apple event. I had been invited to Apple events before but somehow started getting missed off the list. I hate Apple so it was no surprise that they didn't want me there. Safe to say that after this post not only was I missed off the list but Computer Weekly never received an invite from Apple ever again.

iPhone Vs N97
This was the first big video project that me and David (video editor) put together. At the time I was so happy that I'd got the N97 I decided to make a video pitting it against the iPhone while mocking Apple's advertising campaign. Little did I know that the N97 would prove to be the worst purchase I've ever made in my life.




HTC Desire HD Review
David (who stars in this video) and I wanted to do something different and create a cool video review. This is what we came up with.

Sadly once we started recording David (and the department he worked for) were made redundant. It didn't effect the video but it wasn't a happy time for us. Having cleared out his desk he set up at home the next day to finish it. This was our last hurrah and the last video I made. Very proud of it.




What is the best mobile OS around?
At this point, no one wanted to be in any of my videos. The company was starting to cut back on them and so I tried to play four roles with four outfits and a moustache before I got told that what I was doing wasn't a productive use of my time. Honestly, how could they say that?

This video used to have a voting element that has since been removed because we couldn't afford to pay for the server the flash sat on.

The most ambitious video we ever tried.





Video: The future of business cards, I'm not taking the Poken
There was a girl I was desperate to go out with at my work. I needed to do a video to have a reason to talk to her but the only thing I'd been sent was a Poken. No phones or cool gadgets. Somehow I persuaded her to help me make this video. We're still together :)




Video review of the wiimote like Gyration Air Mouse
This video is pretty much when I realised that I can be funny. What people don't realise is that filming didn't take long but discussions between David and I on what was funny took forever.

He would stand there saying "That's not funny" every time I cracked a joke or did something stupid. Or one of my favourite lines of his was "You might think that's funny, but it isn't".




Video: Palm Pre vs the iPhone - The big debate
I had 2 weeks before Christmas to do a video armed with my wit and a white wig that was left over from a very bad 'Back to the future' spoof I'd made where I played the Doc. That video was so bad that the company we producd it for sent us a letter saying that if the video ever saw the light of day, they'd sue my a** off. 

David went on holiday with a week left of editing/filming to do so I didn't have anyone to tell me that what I was saying wasn't funny and some of the editing is a bit off. It's still a good video but we felt it was rushed.




Video: I heart iPad - Dating website matches man to iPad
What do you do when you get your hands on an iPad before the UK release? Write a review. Then what? Make a video about having a special relationship with it. Yep, not sure why.



The HTC and Google story: A love affair and a tragedy
Lord knows what compelled me to write this. Had I taken more time to craft it, I think it could've been great but when I read it now I feel it's rushed. Still good, where the idea came from I'll never know.

Video: Flip Mino HD review
This video took 84 takes. For no reason at all I couldn't stop laughing during recording. We got in trouble because it was meant to take a couple of hours but took almost two weeks.

Video: Zeemote review - Is this the future of mobile gaming?
I did this video because Zeemote said that they'd give me a free phone if I reviewed it. So...

GeeklyWeekly Sexy Halloween Special
Wow, how bad is this video? It doesn't even have anything to do with gadgets!!

HTC One X White: Reviewed - Cool, strong and fantastic.

Faisal Alani | No Comments | No TrackBacks
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HTC have unveiled the One X as their flagship phone and this one is a beauty.

The white polycarbonate shell feels comfortable in the hand yet sturdy. I really wanted to throw this phone on the floor to test it but decided not to, instead watching Youtube videos of others abusing it. The results showed that the One X not only held together but that when the shell was scratched it stayed white which is nice.

This phone is incredibly light and while it hosts a beautifully clear and fantastically curved 4.7 inch screen, it doesn't feel too big and just about fits nicely in the pocket.

It is almost exactly the same size as the Samsung Galaxy S3 in every way.

Speed/processor and spec-wise, the Galaxy S3 and One X are very similar both boasting great screens and amazing cameras.

The main differences are which one you like the look of and whether you prefer Sammy's Touchwiz or HTC's Sense. Personally I like Sense, especially in Android 4.0 as HTC has pulled back on all the flash and streamlined it so it's less obtrusive and more useful.

Again, it comes down to personal preference because Touchwiz is also very good.


HTC_One_X_White.jpgThe One X comes equipped with the Tegra 3 quad-core 1.5GHz processor backed up by 1GB of RAM, this is quite a statement by HTC as this phone is 'best in class' in almost every department.

The specifications for the One X read:

  • Running on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with HTC Sense
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz Tegra 3 processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 4.7" 720p Super LCD2
  • 8MP f2.0 camera with its own image processor
  • 1.3MP front-facing camera (capable of HD video chat)
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 25GB of free Dropbox storage
  • NFC capabilities
  • 1800mAh battery
  • 4G compatible

The phone is one of the slimmest the world has seen measuring at 7.9mm, compared to the iPhone 4s's 9.3mm, mainly due to its polycarbonate shell.

As well as Dropbox, the One X will also come with Beats by Dr Dre audio built in. Unlike previous HTC handsets, Beats is built into any audio that your phone puts out including video, Spotify or YouTube.

HTC One X white.jpg
To sum up, this phone is brilliant. It will be my next phone. It looks and feels great with power and a truly amazing camera.

Stylish, quick and clever I genuinely enjoy using it and it truly gives you the best that Android has to offer. This phone has pulled HTC from the brink and thrown the company to the forefront. It may not come with as much fanfare as the Samsung Galaxy S3 or whatever Apple unveils but blow for blow the One X matches and exceeds.

The only question you have to ask is whether the Galaxy S3 has more to offer, for me it doesn't.



MWC 2012: Day one round-up - HTC One X, Nokia 808, Asus Padfone and more

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So the first day of Mobile World Congress (MWC) is over, and wow what a day it was certainly living up to the hype.

The biggest announcement was HTC's One range of phones and particularly the HTC One X quad-core super phone.

HTC One X white.jpgThe One X comes equipped with the Tegra 3 quad-core 1.5GHz processor backed up by 1GB of RAM, this is quite a statement by HTC as this phone is 'best in class' in almost every department.

HTC also unveiled the One S and the One V. The One S is a mid-range phone packing a dual-core processor, 4.3 inch screen, eight-megapixel camera, 1080p video recording and 32GB of non-expandable on board storage.

The HTC One V is the cheapest option of the three. It runs on a single-core processor with a 3.7-inch screen, five-megapixel camera with 720p video recording and 4GB of expandable on-board storage.



Nokia unveiled their 808 Pureview Symbian smart phone, which while being thick and not running Windows Phone 7 is still a big deal as it houses a 41-megapixel camera. Yes, that's right f-o-u-r-t-y o-n-e megapixel camera. While that sounds amazing, I have my reservations. How good is the lense? Can the screen handle so many pixels? Do you need so many?

ZTE also showed their hand unveiling the ZTE OZTE-Era.JPGrbit, a budget Windows Phone 7 (WP7) handset. It's the minimum specification that is needed for a WP7 but it's still very good. It has a 1GHz single core processor, 512 RAM and a 5MP camera. The best feature is that it has an NFC chip making it the first WP7 phone to have NFC capabilities.

ZTE also unveiled the ZTE Era, another quad-core processor phone. This is a change of strategy for ZTE as they have always aimed at the budget market but the Era is anything but budget.

The ZTE Era runs on the latest version of Android, 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and is powered by the NVIDIA Tegra 3 chip, featuring a powerful 1.3GHz quad-core processor. The phones other features include 1GB of RAM 4.3-inch qHD display and 8-megapixel camera with 1080p video.

Asus have tried something innovative by unveiling the Asus Padfone. It sounds awful but it's basically a smartphone that can slot into a tablet to power it.

335973-asus-padfone-hybrid.jpgThis another Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich device with a 4.3in Super AMOLED qHD screen powered by a Qualcomm 1.5GHz dual-core processor and has 1GB of RAM. The tablet has a 10.1 inch screen and it's own battery. You can also get another keyboard accessory making it an Android laptop.

And finally, away from all the new handsets, Google pitched in with some incredible stats about Android.

As of yesterday, there are over 450,000 apps available in Android market with one billion apps downloaded a month.

Google also unveiled that there are 850,000 Android devices activated a DAY, making the total number of Android devices 300 million worldwide. Incredible.

HTC ONE X: Quad-core monster phone

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HTC have unveiled the HTC One X, alongside the HTC One S and V. The One X is the first quad-core phone to be announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) and looks to be the most powerful smartphone on the planet.

HTC One X.jpgThe One X comes equipped with the Tegra 3 quad-core 1.5GHz processor backed up by 1GB of RAM, this is quite a statement by HTC as this phone is 'best in class' in almost every department.
The specifications for the One X read:

  • Running on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with HTC Sense
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz Tegra 3 processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 4.7" 720p Super LCD2
  • 8MP f2.0 camera with its own image processor
  • 1.3MP front-facing camera (capable of HD video chat)
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 25GB of free Dropbox storage
  • NFC capabilities
  • 1800mAh battery
  • 4G compatible

The phone is one of the slimmest the world has seen measuring at 7.9mm, compared to the iPhone 4s's 9.3mm, and comes in a machined polycarbonate shell which makes it light but strong.

As well as Dropbox, the One X will also come with Beats by Dr Dre audio built in. Unlike previous HTC handsets, Beats is built into any audio that your phone puts out including video, Spotify or YouTube.

HTC One X white.jpg
As I said before, this is the best phone available. Something HTC will hope to still be the case when Samsung finally unveils the Galaxy S3 in the coming weeks.

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Video: HTC Titan II unveiled at CES 2012 - Titanic or Clash of the... ?

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NEW YORK - OCTOBER 11: A person holds a new Wi...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The HTC Titan II was unveiled atCES today running on Windows Phone 7 Mango with an incredible 16-megapixel camera that has the ability to capture 720p video.

The Titan II will use a 1.5GHz Snapdragon single-core processor and will have a 1730mAh battery.

Other features are that it will have a 4.7 inch screen and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera.



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5 of the best smartphone collaborations

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News of the upcoming BlackBerry Porsche (or P'9981) has inspired me to create a list of other 'special' or limited edition phones. 

It's going to be in two parts. First, this part will outline five of the best (for various reasons) smartphone collaborations and the second part will look at five of the worst. 

So, kicking things off, here is the BlackBerry Porsche: 

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The most shocking thing about this handset is not what it looks like but how much it costs. £2000 pounds. 

£2000 is a lot to pay for any phone, for that amount of money you could get a run around car! Instead, what we have here is, in Faisal's words, a phone that looks like an 80's calculator. 

It doesn't even come with RIM's new BBX operating system. What it does come with though is a forged stainless steel frame, hand-wrapped leather back cover, Wikitude World Browser augmented reality app experience (not a clue?), 1.2GHz processor, HD video recording capabilities, and 8GB of onboard memory.

As for the Porsche's input? Well apart from the nicely engraved name along the top of the screen that lets everyone know how rich and, in my opinion, how stupid you are, there is an exclusive Porsche Design UI running on the handset. 

I know I said that this is five of the best yet I've gone on to heavily criticise the BlackBerry, so let me explain. In terms of build quality, memory and processing speed the P'9981 is head and shoulders above devices on the upcoming worst list. 

Next up, the HTC Sensation range with Beats Audio. Specifically the XE model. 

htc-sensation-xe.jpg
The XE is a solid Android 2.3.4 smartphone, equipped with a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and HTC's popular Sense UI. The urban styled handset differentiates itself from the pack with the inclusion of Beats Audio technology.

Beats by Dr.Dre seems to be taking over the audio market so it is came as no surprise to hear it would be making the move to smartphones following HTC's decision to buy a sizeable stake in the company. 

The device comes packaged with a pair of iBeats earphones, which cost a pretty penny if you were to go out and buy a pair, and the fact that I've seen a few people complain that the music player comes with the bass boost enabled tells you all you need to know. 

Moving on, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, the first PlayStation certified smartphone, is third on my list. 

Sony-Ericsson-Xperia-Play-ofic-1.jpg
Another Android 2.3.4 (although an update to 4.0 is looming) handset, the Xperia Play is equipped with a 4" touchscreen, a 1GHz Scorpion processor and 512 MB of RAM. 

Thanks to Sony Ericsson's little Android tweaks, this smartphone would still have been a decent device before the PlayStation integration came along. 

Having already used an Xperia Play for gaming, I know the touch sensitive flat joystick replacements, PSP like gaming buttons and a super-sensitive accelerometer all make for an impressive experience, whether your playing Crash Bandicoot or Pro Evo. 

In conceptual terms, this fourth smartphone collaboration is genius. Take a Motorola Droid (the old model, not the new super thin RAZR), add a bit of Star Wars magic and the end result is the Droid R2 D2!

MotorolaDroidR2D2ManuaUserGuideSettingSetupTroubleshooting.jpg
This Droid packs a 3.7" touch Screen, slide-out qwerty keyboard, 1GHz processor and 5MP camera. However, there is no hologram projector. 

If you think the only difference between the R2 D2 and a normal Droid handset is a plastic back cover and a Star Wars wallpaper, you are sadly mistaken. Oh no, the R2 D2 also comes with official Star Wars sounds (lightsabers etc I'm guessing) as well as an exclusive "The Best of R2-D2" movie with original Cantina music. Wow. 

I imagine these sold well at comic book conventions. 

The final phone in my top five is the Acer Liquid E Ferrari edition. 

AcerE.jpg
Acer aren't really famed for their smartphones and, to be honest, the Liquid E only made the list because I couldn't find any other decent collaborations. 

Shipped with Android 2.1, but up-datable to 2.2, and powered by a 768 MHz Scorpion processor, the Liquid E is by no means a world beater. In fact, media playback is lousy, the camera is poor and the phone as a whole is quite slow. Quite ironic really considering it is a Ferrari edition. 

Considering it's hardware specs, the asking price of around £300 is ludicrous. The selection of  Ferrari sounds and wallpapers are so-so but it's the plastic case with an air intake-style vent and the carbon fibre-wrapped Ferrari logo where things start to improve. 

Acer have also taken the time to try and make some personal changes to the Android OS, with small spinning wheels at the end of each of the five home screens being the main example of this. 

The Ferrari Bluetooth headset is what sealed the Liquid E's place on this list.

Well thats a wrap for now. 

Next week I will be listing five of the worst smartphone collaborations so keep an eye out for that. 

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